Imagine if you could have a frank conversation with your friends and family about their colon health. It sounds like an odd idea. After all, isn’t our digestive system something we usually leave to private conversations with medical professionals? Unfortunately, some people hesitate to discuss their colon even with their doctors. Perhaps the alarming statistics that over 50,000 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2018, or that it’s the third leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the US might change the desire to have that otherwise potentially awkward conversation.
Colon Cancer Awareness Month
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance celebrates March as colorectal cancer awareness month annually, and one of their goals is to start the conversation around how important proper colorectal health is. Their website includes a wealth of resources to help you understand the disease, the screening tools available, and the course of treatment that most people undergo in order to cure it. You can visit a glossary of terms to understand how to frame the conversation, as well as helpful organizations to reach out to for resources if you find yourself in need of them.
Who Gets Colon Cancer?
The short answer to that question is that, really, anyone can get colorectal cancer. It tends to affect the over 50 age group more than younger patients, but that doesn’t mean that people under the age of 50 are exempt. In fact, there has been a notable increase in instances of the disease for younger populations over the past few decades. In addition to age being a risk factor, you’re also at a higher risk if you have a family history of the disease or other cancers, if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), if you have certain digestive health syndromes, are a member of certain ethnic backgrounds, or if you have type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors that are within your control include being overweight or obese, being a heavy smoker or drinker, not following a proper diet, and having a sedentary lifestyle.
How Is Colon Cancer Detected?
Colon cancer has a number of common signs and symptoms, but the problem is that they’re similar to several other common digestive ailments, so they can sometimes be dismissed or misdiagnosed. These symptoms include a change in bowel habits lasting more than a few days, unintended weight loss, weakness and fatigue, blood in the stool, abdominal cramping, rectal bleeding, and the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement that isn’t relieved once you have one. If you find yourself falling into any of those categories, it’s time to make an appointment at GI Associates to determine a need for further testing.
Thankfully, a very accurate and easily accessible test is available to help screen for colorectal cancer. If you’re approaching 50, or you’ve already turned 50 and haven’t discussed a colonoscopy with your doctor yet, it’s time to start that conversation. Colonoscopies are the best tool to aid in colon cancer detection and prevention and should be received regularly. The American Cancer Society recommends patients with average risk of colorectal cancer begin testing at age 50, and regularly every 10 years after that. If you fall into a higher risk category, you should start that conversation with your doctor earlier to determine if you should be receiving colonoscopies at a younger age or with more frequency. This quick screening searches for polyps in your digestive tract which, with testing, can determine if they’re cancerous or not.
GI Associates is here to make sure you’re taking proper control of your digestive health. Remember that colonoscopies aren’t just for people who suspect they may have colon cancer, they’re an excellent preventative measure that we should all factor into our healthcare plan as we age. Book an appointment to see us today for more information.