SSM Health Medical Minute – Who is at risk for colon cancer?

Medical Minute

ST. LOUIS – Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, with an estimated 130,000 Americans diagnosed each year. The spotlight on colon cancer questions following the untimely death of actor Chadwick Boseman has risen to the forefront.

Oncologist Dr. Mudresh Mehta says colon or colorectal cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most commonly found in people aged 50 and older. However, Dr. Mehta says if you have a family history of severe symptoms, it is important to push for a screening if you are under the age of 50.

Screening for colon cancer is a colonoscopy which detects polyps, an early sign of cancer. Colonoscopies are recommended every five to 10 years unless risk factors determine more frequency. Colon cancer is linked to both genetics and environmental factors.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancers may present similar to other conditions, such as hemorrhoids and inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms vary between individuals, but if you are experiencing any of the following, it’s important to consult with your physician:

  • Blood in stool (typically bright red or very dark)
  • Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Stools that are more narrow than usual (sometimes pencil-like)
  • Unexplained stomach discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Iron deficiency anemia (low number of red blood cells)

To learn more about colon cancer symptoms and treatment, click here.

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