Get a Colonoscopy If You Have These Colon Cancer Symptoms: Oncologist

  • Colon cancer cases have increased among young people by 2% per year since 2011.
  • Gastrointestinal oncologist Dr. James Cleary shared common signs and symptoms to look out for.
  • If you have two of these symptoms at the same time, you should have a colonoscopy, he said.

Colorectal cancer is on the rise among young people, but detecting it early increases the chances of a complete cure. This means it’s essential to know the symptoms and get tested if they occur, especially if you have more than one.

Rates of colorectal cancer in people under 50 have increased 2% each year since 2011, according to the American Cancer Society. And it is now the deadliest cancer among men of this age in the United States, and the second deadliest among women.

In the United States, approximately $24.3 billion was spent on colorectal cancer health care in 2020, accounting for 12.6% of all cancer treatment costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . By comparison, breast cancer, the cancer with the highest cost of treatment, accounts for 14% of all costs, the CDC said.

Most colon and rectal cancers start as small growths, called polyps, in the lining of the organs. Usually they are harmless, but they can sometimes develop into cancer.

Polyps are often asymptomatic, so it’s important to have regular screenings because those detected in the early stages can usually be removed completely, according to the Mayo Clinic. The recommended age to start cancer screening is 45, but people with a genetic predisposition, family history of the disease, or other colorectal risk factors may be advised to get tested at a younger age .

“We used to do colonoscopies as a screening method at the age of 50, but now the age has been reduced to 45 as more and more young people are getting colorectal cancer. So please get your colonoscopy,” said Dr. James Cleary. a gastrointestinal oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, told Business Insider.

But those who develop signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer before age 45 may also want to get screened. “If you have one symptom, you should think about getting a colonoscopy, but if you have two, statistically speaking, your chances are higher and you really should get a colonoscopy,” Cleary said.

For example, abdominal pain or cramping and weakness or fatigue are both symptoms of the condition. Although these symptoms can be a sign of many conditions, if you experience both at the same time, you may want to consider getting tested for cancer.

Cleary shared three of the other common signs and symptoms of colon cancer to look out for.

Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency anemia, characterized by low iron levels, can be a sign of colon cancer.

This usually happens because colon cancer can cause bleeding, especially rectal bleeding, another symptom of the disease, Cleary said. However, bleeding can occur at a microscopic level, which the patient would not be aware of.

Blood loss causes anemia because the red blood cells in the blood contain iron. So if you lose blood, you lose iron.

“When it’s discovered that someone has iron deficiency anemia, I think the important question will always be ‘why does this person have iron deficiency anemia?’ “And if you really can’t find a good cause, that person should really have a colonoscopy,” he said.

Common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include fatigue, lack of energy, shortness of breath and headaches. You can take a blood test to check your iron levels.

Stool changes

Changes in bowel habits can also be a potential sign of colorectal cancer, but it can manifest in several ways, Cleary said. If the tumor is located lower in the rectum, for example, this can cause the stool to become narrower as it has to pass to leave the body.

Changes such as going to the bathroom more often, pencil-thin stools and blood in the stool are common in colorectal cancer patients, he said.

Other changes may include diarrhea, constipation, and not feeling relief after a bowel movement.

Unintentional weight loss

Unintentional weight loss can be a sign of any type of cancer, including colon cancer, Cleary said. He tends to see this in patients with very advanced colon cancer.

“It’s usually quite significant, 10 to 20 pounds over six months to a year,” he said, without the patient actively trying.

If people experience unintentional weight loss, they should see their doctor and understand what’s going on, because it’s a high-risk feature, he said, especially if they have the same time another symptom, such as rectal bleeding.

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