Know signs of colon cancer

The New York Times reported that cases of colorectal cancer, which include cancers of the colon or the rectum, have been declining in populations over the age of 65, but have been rising in those under the age of 50, according to a report by the American Cancer Society.

For those over 65, the reason for the decrease is possibly due to regular screenings.

But doctors are not sure why younger people are developing this type of cancer.

For some patients, it is due to obesity, diabetes, smoking, or a family history of cancer, but that is not the case for everyone who develops colorectal cancer, the Times reported.

Signs of colorectal cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, signs of colorectal cancer include:

  • Change of bowel habits
  • Feeling like you have to go, but not feeling relief after
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool, making it look dark brown or black
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Many of the signs can be attributed to other conditions, but experts said you should contact your doctor if you see them.

Usually, there is bleeding in the digestive tract and the blood loss can cause a low red blood cell count or anemia. A blood test showing low blood count is usually the first sign of colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Regular screening tests can catch colon cancer early before polyps turn cancerous, the Mayo Clinic said.

Risk factors

There are many reasons you could be at risk of developing colon cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic, including:

  • Older age. Normally it will develop in people older than 50 but the number of people developing colon cancer under 50 is increasing.
  • Race. African Americans are at greater risk of colon cancer than people of other races.
  • History of colorectal cancer or polyps.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Inherited syndromes like adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome.
  • Family history of colon cancer.
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Colorectal cancer could be connected to diets that are low in fiber but high in fat and calories. Some studies have found a connection between this type of cancer and people who eat a lot of red meat or processed meat.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Having an inactive lifestyle increases risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Radiation therapy for other cancers. Radiation used to combat other cancers that is directed to the abdomen can increase the risk of colon cancer.

Prevention

There are ways to change your lifestyle to prevent colon cancer, the Mayo Clinic has found, including:

  • Screening. Get tested and talk to your doctor about the types of tests that are available.
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or don’t drink at all.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days. If you are inactive now, work up slowly to 30 minutes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.


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