We know there are certain things that are inevitable as we age. For example, our metabolism will slow down, we won’t be as fast or agile as we were, and our skin will wrinkle. There are also certain illnesses that tend to affect older people or at least the risk for these illnesses increases. Arthritis, osteoporosis, and bladder problems are common conditions that arise as we age. Among this list is colorectal cancer. 

This is why, originally, routine screening was not recommended until the age of 50. But recently, there have been an alarming number of cases of younger people receiving a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. It is no longer safe to assume that colorectal cancer is a disease that can’t affect you until you’re older. It is important to learn the risk factors and symptoms associated with colorectal cancer so that you’re not caught off guard by this potential diagnosis.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

The symptoms of colorectal cancer can be confusing for many reasons. One, they are not noticeable in the early, most treatable, stages of cancer. When symptoms are present, usually the cancer is in a late stage and has possibly spread to other parts of the body. Second, the symptoms mimic other less-serious gastrointestinal issues. Because there is a greater understanding that colorectal cancer can affect young people, it is crucial to contact your doctor when you do notice symptoms. Tests can be run to determine if a common GI problem is present or if cancer is the culprit. 

Symptoms include feeling bloated, as if you cannot fully empty your bowel, or having intense abdominal pain. A sudden, on-going, change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation indicate a GI issue. If you notice blood in your stool or experience unintended weight loss, do not hesitate to call your doctor.

Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer

While age is a risk factor for colorectal cancer, there are other things that you have more control over. The risk factors can also be seen as warnings. If you are willing to make simple lifestyle adjustments, the risk factors may no longer apply to you. The risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and a diet that is high in fatty foods. When you are willing to limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages, stop smoking, and exercise at least three times a week, you’re significantly reducing your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Choosing to eat a diet that is high in fiber and rich with fruits and vegetables is a much safer option than fried foods and red meat. As you take care of your overall health, you are taking big steps toward preventing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer in Younger People

Since 1998, rates of colorectal cancer have been steadily dropping in adults over the age of 50, yet increasing by 2% each year in younger people. Because colonoscopies have historically been recommended at 50 years old, colorectal cancer diagnosed in younger people is often in a late, less-treatable stage. In fact, adults in their 30s are 30% more likely to be diagnosed with stage III or IV colorectal cancer. Of colorectal cancer cases in younger people, 72% are diagnosed with colon cancer and 28% are diagnosed with rectal cancer. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, pre-cancerous growths in the intestine, talk to your GI doctor today. You will be encouraged to schedule a colonoscopy earlier than the recommended age. 

If you experience any of the symptoms listed, make an appointment at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center today. Colorectal cancer is a completely treatable disease if detected early.

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