Colorectal Cancer: Know the Symptoms, Know the Risks
March 2, 2016
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According to the American Cancer Society colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, excluding skin cancers. And while the majority of these cases occur in people 50 and older, the disease can happen to men and women at any age. The good news is that the overall incidence of, and death rates associated with, colorectal cancers have been on the decline for more than a decade, thanks in large part to effective colonoscopy screenings that can detect the disease in its early stages.
“Colorectal cancers are much more treatable when caught early,” said Dr. Filiberto Colón, gastroenterologist with Mountain Medical Associates. “Colonoscopies can not only improve our ability to detect colorectal cancer quickly, they can help us identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous. We recommend that everyone talk to their doctor about their colorectal cancer risks and discuss when a colonoscopy could be right for them.”
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
In early stages, colorectal cancers are often symptomless, which is why screening is so important.
Colorectal cancer might not cause symptoms right away, but if it does, it may cause one or more of these symptoms:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that's not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Many of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than colorectal cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, or irritable bowel syndrome. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Preventing colorectal cancer
There's no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer. But there are things you can do that might help lower your risk, such as changing the risk factors that you can control. Screening is the number one way you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer risk factors you can change
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Certain types of diets
- Heavy alcohol use
You can also be proactive when it comes to prevention in other ways. Living a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake and eliminating smoking can reduce your risk for colorectal and many other forms of cancer. Knowing your family’s medical history is also important, as a history of the disease in your immediate family puts you at a higher risk. Learn more about risks HERE.