March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that about 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. That’s a staggering statistic. Like most cancers, the key to treating it successfully is early detection. Knowing the early warning signs, especially if you have a family history of colon cancer is vital.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
The trouble with colon cancer is that sometimes there are no symptoms at all in the beginning. However, if you experience any of the symptoms listed below, it is important not to ignore them. Colon cancer symptoms include:
- changes in stool color
- changes in stool shape, such as narrowed stool
- blood in the stool
- bleeding from the rectum
- excessive gas
- abdominal cramps
- abdominal pain
What are the types of colon cancer?
Like many cancers, colon cancer has several types. The difference between the types is based on which cells turn cancerous and where they form. The most common type of colon cancer is called adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma forms in the mucus cells of the colon or rectum. A less common type of colon cancer is caused by tumors such as lymphomas, carcinoids, sarcomas, or gastrointestinal stromal tumors.
What causes colon cancer?
Scientists are still researching what causes colon cancer. The most recent research seems to point to genetic mutations that can increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer vs someone who does not have these genetic mutations. These genetic mutations can cause polyps, small benign growths, to form inside the colon. Having regular colonoscopies to check for polys and having them removed can help prevent them from turning into colon cancer.
What increases your risk of getting colon cancer?
In addition to genetic mutations, some lifestyle choices are thought to contribute to the risk of developing colon cancer. these include:
- being overweight or having obesity
- being a smoker
- being a heavy drinker
- having type 2 diabetes
- having a sedentary lifestyle
- consuming a diet high in processed meats
How often should you get a colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests that people over the age of 50 or those with a family history of colon cancer get a colonoscopy at least once every 10 years. Depending on the results of your colonoscopy and your family history, your doctor may recommend having a colonoscopy more frequently. If you or a family member is having symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get checked out.