Colorectal cancer, which refers to types of cancer that occur in the colon or rectum, are among the most common and serious forms of cancer for adults in the US. In fact, colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer for adults in the US, trailing only lung cancer. This point has only been reinforced by the recent tragic death of actor Chadwick Boseman, who passed away from colon cancer at the age of 43. Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer before turning 40, a trend that is becoming more common according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Incidence rates of colorectal cancer are on the rise for people under the age of 50. In fact, last year 11% of new colon cancer diagnoses and 18% of new rectal cancer diagnoses were found in people under 50. In a survey collected by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, nearly 2,000 younger colorectal cancer patients and survivors were asked about their experience with the disease. 50% of the responders said their initial symptoms were ignored and nearly 75% said their cancer was diagnosed at a later stage.
Despite the high mortality rate, colorectal cancer is often treatable when it is detected and accurately diagnosed at an early stage. That’s why it’s so important for adults, even ones below the age of 40, to be aware of their risk factors and potential symptoms. Common risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), smoking, and obesity.
Common symptoms to look out for include changes in your bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool. Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool is another major red flag. We also recommend keeping an eye out for persistent abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas, or pain) and a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely.
Prevention is critical and the most impactful step adults can take towards preventing colorectal cancer is undergoing regular colorectal screening appointments. In the past, it was recommended for people with an average risk of colorectal cancer to consider colon cancer screening around age 50. However, these trends towards younger cases indicate that starting closer to age 40 can be beneficial. This is especially true for people with a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
Thankfully, colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable for those who are aware of their risk and take a more proactive approach to their health. We encourage all of our patients to discuss your colon health during your next appointment with one of our healthcare providers. We are now accepting walk-in appointments. All walk-ins will be subject to pre-screening for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms to protect our patients and staff. Additionally, we now offer COVID-19 antibody testing. Tests are 95-98% accurate for people who have been exposed to COVID antibodies. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our healthcare providers today, please contact Family Practice Center. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for additional health tips, news, and so much more.