Colon cancer is a growing epidemic in our country. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, with an estimated 97,000 new cases of colon cancer in 2018. This is why it is so important to be aware of the symptoms and to get early detection screenings.
First, let’s look at the signs and symptoms of colon cancer.
Keep in mind that many of the sign and symptoms of colon cancer are similar to those of many other, less serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, an infection, or even hemorrhoids. If you have these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. That being said, if you have any of these signs or symptoms, you should visit the gastroenterologist to rule out cancer and to identify the cause of your symptoms and your treatment options.
Possible signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
- A change in bowel habits (e.g., diarrhea or constipation) that lasts more than two weeks
- Stools that are narrower or thinner than usual
- Dark or bloody stools
- Persistent or recurring abdominal pain or cramping
- Rectal bleeding
- A feeling of needing to have a bowel movement but feeling no relief from doing so
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
How Colon Cancer Screening Could Save Your Life
You cannot count on your symptoms alone to help diagnose colon cancer. In fact, symptoms don’t usually appear until cancer has grown or spread. This is why it is so vitally important to be tested for colon cancer before you even have any symptoms. Colon cancer that is found through screening before any symptoms have manifested is usually easier to treat. Colon cancer screening can actually help prevent colon cancer by finding and removing precancerous growths called polyps.
Why Should I Visit a Gastroenterologist?
If you have any of the symptoms above, you should visit a gastroenterologist for a colon cancer screening (colonoscopy). And if you’re between the ages of 50 and 75, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you visit a gastroenterologist on a regular basis.
Board-certified and fellowship-trained gastroenterologists perform these colonoscopies, which allows them to detect cancer at its earliest stages. In fact, it is thanks to these routine screenings that colorectal cancers are among the most preventable types of cancer.
When you see your gastroenterologist, be sure to share your family medical history, as well as any symptoms you may currently be experiencing. By being aware of symptoms, taking the proper precautions, and getting regular screenings, colon cancer can be treated or possibly even prevented.
At Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates, our board-certified and fellowship-trained gastroenterologists have advanced knowledge in preventing and treating colon cancer, as well as a full spectrum of other GI conditions. We are committed to offering our patients comprehensive services and the highest quality of care in central Pennsylvania. If you have any questions or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (717) 245-2228 or use our secure online appointment request form.