Many symptoms are overlooked, while some may be confused with other conditions.
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in both men and women and the third leading cause of death in younger adults. Although colon cancer is commonly seen in people over the age of 50, it is increasingly showing up in younger patients; much of which is due to lifestyle choices as well as genetics. If you have a family history or symptoms, you must see your physician. Unfortunately, many people are still uncomfortable discussing their symptoms due to embarrassment. If a person is experiencing bleeding, pain, change in bowel habits, leakage, or other symptoms, getting a proper diagnosis is critical. As soon as they experience these indicators, they must see their provider, but it is never too late. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the key to optimal outcomes.
Health Conditions and Risk Factors that can Exacerbate Colon Cancer
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- History of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer (family history or personal)
- Lynch Syndrome (family history or personal)
Colon Cancer Statistics Show Younger People are at Risk
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the number of new colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2022 are 106,180 and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer. If caught early on, it can be adequately treated. There is a rise in colon cancer in younger people. In the United States, nearly 18,000 people under the age of 50 were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020.
There are typically no signs or symptoms of colon polyps or colon cancer in the early stages. That is why It is critical to have colonoscopies every ten years, or as recommended by your physician, starting at ages 45 to 50. If you have been diagnosed with colon cancer or are determined to be at high risk, your screening exams will need to be more frequent.
In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated screening guideline recommendations for persons at average risk to begin colon cancer screening at age 45. The previous recommendation was age 50.
Ignoring Symptoms May Deter Treatment and Optimal Outcomes
No matter your age, if you are experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits, you must see a gastroenterologist who will determine whether you are experiencing a gastrointestinal disorder or, perhaps, colon cancer symptoms.
Colon Cancer Warning Indicators
- Anal bleeding
- A sensation of not being able to empty bowels completely
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Anal pain
- Bloody stools
- Excessive gas
- Leakage of mucous
- Narrow stools
- Weight loss
Facts about Polyps
Colon polyps go unnoticed most of the time, affecting upwards of 200,000 people a year. Polyps are cell growths on the lining of the colon or large intestine. Diagnostic tests through lab work and imaging can detect these polyps; however, colonoscopy is the best way to diagnose and remove polyps.
Polyps do not turn cancerous in every case, but your risk of developing cancer increases with the number and size of colon polyps you have. When they turn cancerous, polyp cells can divide and proliferate quickly within the colon and rectum.Because more than 95% of colon cancer originates from adenomatous polyps, they are deemed clinically significant and should be removed.
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A Polyp’s Size Matters
If a polyp is 5 mm in diameter or less, it is classified as diminutive. Any polyp between 6 to 9 mm is considered small and anything over 1 cm in diameter or more is classified as large.
According to the American Cancer Society, 50% of polyps greater than 2 centimeters in size are cancerous, and approximately 1% of polyps with a diameter less than a centimeter are cancerous. It is recommended to have all polyps removed (no matter the size) and have a follow-up colonoscopy within a timeframe recommended by your physician. If a patient has polyps any larger than 1 centimeter or more than one, they are considered at higher risk for colon cancer.
It’s imperative to talk to your physician about protecting yourself and your loved ones who may be at risk for colorectal cancer. Getting a colonoscopy screening is critical for adults with risk factors or over the age of 45. A colonoscopy is a straightforward procedure and one that can save your life. When polyps are discovered, they can be removed surgically during a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. If cancerous, chemotherapy or radiation is usually unnecessary as a secondary treatment if caught early on. It is always best to be proactive in your colon health, rather than waiting and finding that the cancerous polyps have grown and spread into other organs.
Although the symptoms are not always prevalent in the beginning stages, some of the signs are constipation, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, excessive gas, diarrhea, bloody stools, narrow stools, weight loss, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue.
There are other alternatives or additional ways to check for polyps or abnormalities, such as colorectal stool cards and CT virtual colonoscopies. Neither of these is nearly as effective as a colonoscopy, but they are better than nothing at all, especially for those adults with no risk factors. If, however, you have a positive report on the stool cards or your CT shows polyps, you will be referred for a colonoscopy. Most polyps are removed during the colonoscopy, so it’s very convenient and beneficial for the patient to go with the “gold standard,” which is a colonoscopy.
It is imperative to talk to your physician about protecting yourself and your loved ones who may be at risk for colorectal cancer. Getting a colonoscopy screening is critical for adults with risk factors or over the age of 45. A colonoscopy is a detailed procedure and one that can literally save your life. If any polyps are discovered, they can be removed surgically during a colonoscopy.
If the polyps are determined to be cancerous, chemotherapy or radiation is usually unnecessary as a secondary treatment; however, in late-stage diagnosis, they may be inevitable. It is always best to be proactive about your colon health rather than waiting and finding that the cancerous polyps have grown and metastasized into other organs. Talk to your doctor about scheduling your colonoscopy today.
Dr. Martin Maldonado, a board-certified gastroenterologist, explains the causes and symptoms of colon cancer symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment options to help patients find relief.
Schedule an Appointment with Colorectal Expert Today
If you are struggling to manage your gastrointestinal symptoms, a gastroenterologist can help you find relief. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Martin Maldonado at our Florida Medical Clinic location in North Tampa.
About Martin Maldonado, MD, FACG
Dr. Martin Maldonado, a board-certified gastroenterologist, specializes in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colorectal cancer screening, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Weight Loss and nutrition.