Hearing your doctor say the word “cancer” is one of the most terrible things that may happen. No one is ever ready for a diagnosis, but because of advances in both medicine and technology, many conditions are now considerably more manageable than they were in the past. Even though there are measures to lessen the danger, the disease is still the second biggest cause of mortality in the world today. The majority of occurrences of colon cancer can be avoided by avoiding colonic polyps. According to Toufic Kachaamy, MD, FASGE, an AGAF Interventional Program Specialist working for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), the following information was provided: It is the second most frequent kind of cancer in women and the third most common form in men. In the United States, over 150,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, and approximately 50,000 people pass away as a result of it.
Although it is quite frequent, little is known about the causes of colon cancer. The rate at which young adults are being diagnosed with colon cancer has been on the rise over the past two decades, and medical professionals are unsure as to why this is the case. The National Cancer Institute reports that “during the 1990s, the rate of colorectal cancer (which includes malignancies of the colon and rectum) has been progressively growing among persons younger than 50.” This cancer affects the colon as well as the rectum. In addition to this, the disease is taking the lives of more people of younger ages. This quick growth is especially perplexing given that the rate of colorectal cancer among older persons has decreased dramatically, primarily as a result of increased access to regular colonoscopies and decreased smoking rates.
Phil Daschner, a program director in the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Biology, stated that “We don’t understand a lot about the causes, the biology, or how to prevent the early beginning of the illness.” “And that’s important to understand more about because it may alter [approaches for] treatment and survivorship of early-onset colon cancer,” the author writes. “[T]hat’s why it’s important to learn more about.” According to Yale Medicine, “Nobody knows for sure why the percentages of young people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer are rising.” A sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese, smoking cigarettes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, having a diet that is poor in fiber, high in fat, or high in processed meats, as well as other environmental variables, have all been linked to the condition. Other risk factors include having a history of colorectal cancer or polyps in your family, as well as illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease.
It is normal for people in the early stages of colon cancer to be unaware that they have the disease, but there are warning signs that should not be ignored. The key to a long and healthy life is knowing the warning signs, risk factors, and ways to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer. Consume This and Not That! Health conducted interviews with cancer specialists who shared their knowledge of colon cancer and the symptoms that people should be aware of. As usual, we strongly encourage you to seek the medical counsel of your primary care provider. Continue reading, and make sure you don’t miss any of these sure signs that you’ve already had COVID to protect not only your health but also the health of others.
“Colon cancer is one of the most frequent cancers in the United States, however, it is also one of the most preventable cancers,” says Jean S. Wang, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine. Everyone, regardless of whether they have a family history of colon cancer or maintain a healthy lifestyle, is at risk for developing colon cancer. This includes both men and women. The good news is that if you start getting the standard screening tests for colon cancer when you are 45 years old, you can significantly lower the likelihood that you will pass away from the disease.
According to Dr. Harvey Kaufman, a Quest Diagnostics Senior Medical Director, “The greatest component of our digestive system is the large intestine or colon, and it is followed by the rectum.” The colon and the rectum are frequently referred to as the colorectum in common parlance. According to the statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most frequent kind of cancer found in both men and women in the United States. Additionally, it is the third highest cause of death among both men and women that is associated with cancer. Screening can help identify at-risk individuals before cancer develops or catch cancer in its early stages when it is more treatable than late-stage cancer. Colorectal cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers, so it is one of the most important cancers to be aware of.
Dr. Wang tells us, “According to the statistics, one person out of every 20 will develop colon cancer at some point in their lifetime. When colon cancer is in its early stages, it is not unusual for the patient to experience practically no symptoms. The majority of people who have colon cancer do not experience any symptoms until cancer has either progressed to a very advanced stage or spread to other areas of the body. Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, you should still get screened for colon cancer because it is so important to catch it early. Cancer can be detected by screening procedures earlier, before it manifests any symptoms when it is more treatable.”
The following is an explanation provided by Dr. Tracey Childs, who is the chief of surgery at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Childs is board certified in both general and colorectal surgery “Colon cancer begins in a single abnormal cell, which then divides into two, then four, then eight, and so on. Eventually, cancer spreads throughout the entire colon. The time it takes for a single cell to develop into a cancerous colon tumor that can be detected can be in the years. Patients who do not experience any symptoms are responsible for more than sixty percent (60%) of all colon cancer diagnoses in populations that have easy access to medical treatment and screening options.”
According to Dr. Wang, “Common signs of colon cancer are rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, unintentional weight loss, feeling weak and tired all the time, constant abdominal pain or a change in bowel movements such as the sudden onset of constipation. Younger people often dismiss rectal bleeding or blood in the stool as being caused by harmless hemorrhoids. While it is true that hemorrhoids can commonly cause bleeding, it is important to always have a colonoscopy to make sure the bleeding is not caused by colon cancer.”
Dr. Kaufman says, “Colorectal cancer usually lacks symptoms until advanced disease sets in, which is why screenings are extremely important, especially when it comes to catching it early. Those with symptoms, may notice a change in bowel health, such as increased diarrhea or constipation. Some may also feel like they’re never able to fully empty their bowels. Additionally, blood in/on their stool, abdominal pain/cramps, and weight loss can indicate a potential problem. If you suspect something is wrong, speak with your doctor, especially if you have a family history of cancer.”
As Dr. Wang Will Expound, “There are several decisions that may be made about one’s way of life that can assist in lowering one’s risk of developing colon cancer. Don’t light up in the first place! Second, make sure you keep a healthy weight and stay away from being overweight. Regular exercise is essential; you should strive to complete at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. Quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are the two most important lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing any type of cancer, including colon cancer, as well as many others. Reduce your consumption of processed meats and red meat, as studies have shown that eating either of these can increase the risk of colon cancer.”
In addition, Dr. Childs recommends eating a high-fiber diet that is abundant in fruits and vegetables and low in red meats; limiting alcohol consumption; keeping a healthy weight; refraining from smoking, and engaging in physical activity and the recommended preventative health screenings.
Dr. Kaufman explains, “Both biological and lifestyle variables can contribute to an increased likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.
A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps, as well as inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are all potential risk factors. These are risk factors that you are unable to alter; however, you must be aware of them and discuss them with your physician to ensure that you receive individualized recommendations regarding screenings. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family, you should discuss the possibility of beginning screening procedures at an earlier age.”
Dr. Wang explains, “After receiving a diagnosis of colon cancer, one of the most critical questions to ask is how far cancer has progressed from the original site. You and your doctor ought to have a conversation about cancer’s location, specifically if it is contained in the colon, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes in the area, or whether it has gone to other organs. You should also discuss with your doctor the most effective method of treatment, such as whether surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or some combination of these would be the most effective treatment strategy. After you have completed your treatment, you should consult your doctor about how frequently you need to undergo a colonoscopy as part of your follow-up care. You should also inquire about the possibility that other members of your family should begin colonoscopy examinations at an earlier age and at a more regular interval than is customary.”
Dr. Kaufman states, “If you are given a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, there are a few topics that you and your doctor will want to explore for you to gain an understanding of what the diagnosis indicates and the various treatment choices that are available. The American Cancer Society maintains a list of questions that might serve as a useful starting point for a conversation with your primary care physician. These include the determination of where the cancer is located, whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body, the stage it is now in, and what the next steps are in terms of treatment options. If you and your family talk about your medical history, your doctor will be better able to assess whether or not genetic testing is necessary to assist guide treatment options or uncover probable gene abnormalities that may cause an elevated risk for some inherited malignancies.”
According to Dr. Wang, having regular colonoscopies is the single most essential thing you can do to lower your risk of passing away from colon cancer. Colon cancer screenings should begin at age 45 for everyone; however, if you have a family history of the disease, you should check with your doctor because you may be recommended to start colon cancer screenings even earlier. You only need to select one of the following options for your colon screening; several accessible options come highly recommended:
– colonoscopy every 10 years
– home stool test (fecal immunochemical test or FIT) every year
– home stool test (stool DNA test or Cologuard) every 3 years
Screenings of the colon can discover cancer in its earliest stages when it is more treatable. In addition, certain colonoscopies and other screening procedures, such as colonoscopy, have the potential to prevent cancer by locating and eliminating precancerous polyps.
The importance of adhering to screening protocols, as emphasized by Dr. Kaufamn, is something that cannot be overstated, in his opinion. The most recent guidelines indicate that colorectal cancer screening begins at age 45 for all persons who are considered to have an average risk of developing the disease. Even for younger people, it is crucial to be informed of potential symptoms and whether or not their family history may be putting them at a higher risk. This could indicate a need to begin screening at an earlier age. For early identification and potential prevention, it is essential to undergo the required screenings and have an awareness of the medical history of your family. In general, putting off cancer treatment for one additional month can result in a 10% increase in the probability of death from the disease.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer typically do not appear until the later stages of the disease. Even though some people may believe they are in good enough condition to continue putting off essential medical care, they should be aware that even delays of a few weeks or months can affect their overall health. People should also keep in mind that many potentially life-saving screenings – including colorectal cancer screenings such as colonoscopies or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) – are covered by insurance at no additional cost to the patient. This is a different point that people should keep in mind.