Being young is so frequently associated with unlimited potential, vibrancy, energy, and health, that it can be easy to believe you are invincible. The danger is that you’re not. Colorectal cancer is increasing in people younger than age 50, so you can’t afford to be caught unaware. Invincibility would be nice, but believing in it can cause ignorance of or apathy toward very real signs and symptoms that could make a difference in your future.
Colorectal Cancer in Young Adults
A study by the American Cancer Society found that the cases of, and deaths from, colorectal cancer in young Americans has increased. The study looked at ages 20 to 54 and found that there actually is an increase in the incidents of the disease, not just in the early discovery of the disease. Colorectal cancer also is typically more advanced in young people by the time it’s discovered because young people likely have not been screened and are more prone to avoid going to the doctor until symptoms are significant, which can be too late.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
No matter your age, it is important that you not ignore the symptoms, but first you need to understand what they are. Colorectal cancer can cause both local and systemic symptoms. The local symptoms occur in the problem area—in this case the colon or rectum. These include diarrhea, constipation, or any other long-term changes in bowel habits—these can happen alone or in connection with abdominal bloating or cramping, bloody or noticeably narrow stool. Systemic symptoms of colorectal cancer affect the whole body and include nausea and vomiting, lessened appetite or weight loss, and iron deficiency. The more symptoms you experience, the greater the concern.
The increase in colorectal cancer calls for an increased knowledge of your risk factors. Knowing your risk factors will help you and your doctor make decisions about your care that can help identify a potential problem early. There are several important risk factors for colorectal cancer:
- Family History – This is one of the most important since colorectal cancer can be genetic. The more relatives you have with colorectal cancer, and the closer their relation to you, the higher your risk.
- Diet and Lifestyle – Diets higher in red and processed meats have a higher risk of colorectal cancer. A poor diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle puts you at even greater risk. Adding a healthy amount of fruits, vegetables, and fiber and exercising regularly will go a long way toward decreasing your risk.
- Age – Even though the risk of colorectal cancer in young adults has increased, you are still more likely to suffer from the disease later in life. In fact, around 95% of all colorectal cancer occurs in people age 45 or older, so the older you are, the more important it is to pay attention to warning signs and be sure to get regular screenings.
If you are experiencing symptoms or identify with one or more of the risk factors, make an appointment with GI Associates today. We can help you determine whether there is cause for concern and schedule a screening if necessary.