Now is the time to raise awareness about colorectal cancer. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, not including skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined.
According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, on average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women.
While the risk of developing colon cancer increases with age, the incidence of colon cancer is rising up to 2% annually for people under the age of 50, as well. Research conducted by the American Cancer Society has also found that people younger than age 55 developing colorectal cancer are 58% more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage disease than older adults, making curative treatment less likely for them. This dramatic rise in colon cancer incidence in younger individuals prompted the American Cancer Society to now recommend that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 45 for average risk adults. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer should speak to their physicians about beginning screening at even a younger age in some instances, based on the age their affected family members were diagnosed.
Symptoms of colon cancer
While in many cases, there are no obvious symptoms with colon cancer, there are some that can be warning signs and should be discussed with your physician. These include:
- Any major change in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool that is either bright red, black or tarry
- Unintentional weight loss
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- General abdominal discomfort, such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness and/or cramps
- Constant feeling of fatigue or tiredness
- New onset anemia diagnosed on routine lab work
Risk factors for colon cancer
In addition to being aware of symptoms, you should discuss colon cancer screenings with your physician if you have any of the following risk factors:
- Having a personal history of colon or rectal cancer, adenomatous polyps, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
- Having a strong family history of colon or rectal cancer, or polyps, especially a first-degree relative such as a parent, sibling or child or multiple second-degree relatives
Finally, be aware that certain lifestyle factors may also increase your risk for colon cancer:
- Diets high in meat and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Heavy alcohol intake
- Physical inactivity
Have cancer questions? askSARAH is a helpline created to answer all of your cancer-related questions. Our nurses are specially-trained, and available 24/7. All calls are confidential.
For more information about our colorectal cancer services, please call askSARAH at (210) 507-0941.
 Simon, S. (2018, May 30). American Cancer Society Updates Colorectal Cancer Screening Guideline. Accessed June 10, 2019.
It is important to know that the information in this post, including Sarah Cannon’s recommendations for screening, is accurate as of the publishing date.
5 min Read Time