Colon cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp inside the colon or rectum.
Every year, about 135,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancers. It’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer for both men and women.
If the disease is detected early, colon cancer survival rates can be much higher.
Experts recommend regular screenings for people ages 50 and older, which may help prevent the disease.
Because early detection is the key, knowing the warning signs and how family history affects an individual’s risk is very important.
That risk can vary based on who has had cancer — and when. If cancer develops, catching it early can be the key to better outcomes.
The vast majority of colorectal cancers arise from polyps, so screening is important — especially if you are in a high-risk category because of your age or genetic predisposition for cancer.
If polyps are found and removed early, they can be prevented from growing into cancers.
Doctors should recommend cancer screenings at different ages depending on a patient’s personal and family history.
Since colorectal cancers can often grow undetected, screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
Others, however, may experience more direct warning signs.
If you have any of the following symptoms, notify your doctor. They may determine whether you need special testing.
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Changes in bowel habits, including stools that are narrower than usual
- Persistent or recurring abdominal pain
- Unexplained or unintended weight loss
These symptoms aren’t always indicators of colorectal cancer. Many of these symptoms are common and can be caused by other health conditions.
Still, they should be enough to warrant a visit to your doctor — and, if you haven’t done so already, a review of your family’s health history.
Experts from Michigan Medicine said:
“Family history of colorectal cancer has a major impact on your colorectal cancer risk.”
“We typically say that the average individual’s lifetime risk for colorectal cancer is about 5 percent.”
“If you have one first-degree relative with colorectal cancer, your risk is roughly double that.”
“But if you have multiple relatives with colorectal cancer, and especially cancers diagnosed at younger ages, then your risk is much higher.”
Source: Michigan Medicine.