Colon cancer? Colonoscopies? Many people believe those are things to worry about when we are older. However, colorectal cancer is no longer on the decline but is increasing in adults under the age of 50. The American Cancer Society determined that 72% of colorectal cancer cases in adults under the age of 50 were in their 40s. However, recent studies have found that adults born in 1990 are at risk of colon cancer diagnosis two times more than adults born in 1950. Even more, adults born in 1990 are at risk of rectal cancer four times more than the Baby Boomer of 1950. The cause of this is still unknown, but we cannot turn a blind eye toward the fact that colorectal cancer does not discriminate based on age.

Who Is At Risk?

If you have a close family member has a history of colorectal cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Talk to your family and find out who has been diagnosed or treated for colon or rectal cancer and at what age. Then, speak to your doctor to determine the best screening schedule for you. If you have an inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Diet and exercise also play a major role in colorectal cancer. If you have a sedentary lifestyle and consume a diet that is high in fat and low in fiber, you are putting yourself at risk. Smoking and drinking excessively may also put you at a higher risk. If you can manage your consumption and exercise, you will do your part in lowering your risk of colorectal cancer.

The Symptoms

Colorectal cancer is a cancer in either the colon or rectum that forms from non-cancerous growths called polyps. The polyps, if undetected, grow on the wall of the intestine for 10-20 years and the larger they get, the more likely they are to become cancerous. These growths are difficult to detect outside of screening, but the following symptoms may give you clue that something isn’t quite right.

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody Stool
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Cramping or Pain in the Abdomen
  • Bloating or Feeling Full
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss For No Known Reason

While you may be tempted to ignore these symptoms, it is important to take them seriously, especially if you are at a higher risk or have a history of polyps. Colorectal cancer is treatable if detected early, before the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The sooner you are diagnosed, the easier and more successful your treatment will be.

Getting Tested

For the average risk patient, current screening guidelines recommend screenings to begin at the age of 45. Those with higher risk factors will need to begin screening earlier based on their individual risk. Your doctor will discuss a recommended screening schedule with you. If you are experiencing any symptoms, particularly blood in the stool, speak to your doctor. It is important to stress that you should never ignore blood in the stool. To find out more about your risk for colorectal cancer or to schedule a screening, contact us at Needham Gastroenterology today.