With most illnesses and cancers, you can easily find a list of common risk factors and symptoms that indicate a population that would be at a higher risk for the disease. Based on that knowledge, many traditional preventative treatments and screenings aren’t recommended for certain groups. One such commonly known risk factor is that colon and rectal cancers are more prevalent in the over 50 population. So you might find yourself thinking that if you’re not in that age group you must be safe. Unfortunately, that’s not the case according to a newly released study by the American Cancer Society.
The study shows an increased rate of colorectal cancers in every generation born since 1950. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be around 13,500 new cases of colon and rectal cancers diagnosed in adults under age 50 this year. The rate of colon cancer increase is small – 1-2% in ages 20-39 and .5-1% in ages 40-54 – but over time, that increase is definitely significant. Rectal cancer rates are climbing even higher – 3% in ages 20-39 and 2% in ages 40-54. Doctors are seeing this rise in cancer rates, but they’re not really sure of the causes. Some of it can be attributed to lifestyle, including unhealthy diet, obesity, and lack of physical activity, but the complete relationship is difficult to determine. According to the study, in addition to rising rates of the disease, it is also most common to see advanced stages in patients under 55. Since most doctors and patients don’t have colorectal cancer on their radars for young people, they may overlook the symptoms and misdiagnose them. By the time they receive the diagnosis, they’re more likely to be at an advanced stage.
A big factor to discuss with your GI doctor is family history. If you have instances of colorectal cancer in your family tree, you’re more likely to be affected as well. The most common signs of colorectal cancer include change in bowel habits that last more than a few days, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, cramping and abdominal pain, weakness and fatigue, unintended weight loss, and the feeling of needing to make a bowel movement that isn’t relieved by doing so. If you have these symptoms, contact the team at Carolina Digestive for an appointment to discuss screenings and available testing. Staying on top of your personal health can mean the difference between catching cancer before it spreads and treatment becomes more difficult.