Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States each year (excluding skin cancers). Approximately 1 in 21 American men and 1 in 23 American women are at risk of developing this disease in their lifetime.
March is Colorectal Awareness Month. The experienced doctors at the Regional Cancer Care Associates want to help you understand the warning signs of colorectal and colon cancers. Early detection and diagnosis of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel or colon cancer, is a cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as a small growth or polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Not all types of polyps become cancer, but regular screenings can catch any potential issues early so you can begin effective treatments.
What are the warning signs?
One of the early warning signs of colon or rectal cancer is bleeding. As tumors grow, they often cause intermittent bleeding. You may not be able to detect the blood in your stool without medical testing, and not all colorectal cancers have symptoms. This is why regular colon cancer screenings, especially if you are over 50 years old, are extremely important. Warning signs of colon cancer include:
- Change in bathroom habits – Unexplained constipation, diarrhea, or bowel incontinence can be a sign of colon or rectal cancer.
- Anemia – If you maintain a similar routine each day and suddenly feel tired or sluggish, and rest does not make you feel better, you may be at risk for colorectal cancer. Anemia is a shortage of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.
- Unexplained weight loss – If you haven’t made any lifestyle changes, but are losing weight, you may have cancer cells that are using large amounts of energy.
- Vomiting, or gas pains – As the cancer grows, it can put pressure on or obstruct your gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting or gas pains not associated with a viral infection.
If you experience any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule a colon cancer screening. The sooner you diagnose and treat colorectal cancer, the better chance you have to eliminate the disease.
How can I help prevent colorectal cancer?
While there is no known way to prevent colon or rectal cancer, there are things you can do to help lower your risk.
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Eliminate use of all tobacco products
- Drink alcohol in moderation
When you know the signs of colorectal cancer, you can seek medical attention at the first sign of worry. If you or someone you know has a family history of colon, rectal or other cancers, we hope you’ll schedule an appointment with RCCA today. We are dedicated to your health and wellness.