Healthy Body

Shhh, I don’t want to talk about that

Colon-cancer
Written by Leigh Neely

Some issues may be uncomfortable to discuss with your doctor, but the truth is colorectal cancer is rising among people under age 50.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the time to wear the dark blue ribbon and promote the slogan, “No one fights alone.” 

While some may complain about how uncomfortable it is to prepare for a colonoscopy, that one day of discomfort may give you many more years of great living. Because colorectal cancer can begin as a growth called a “polyp,” it’s important to find those early. In fact, polyps can be removed during the screening process, preventing them from becoming cancerous.

Though there is plenty of information about breast and lung cancer, colorectal cancer is often overlooked. However, it is the third-most common cancer in the United States and the second- leading cause of death from cancer. Though it is most often found in people over age 50, the number of cases involving people under 50 is increasing.

According to the National Cancer Institute, scientists are still trying to comprehend why certain people are more likely to get a specific cancer. These types of studies can help you know if you’re in a high-risk category for colorectal cancer. For example, if you have a family or personal history of polyps, you’re at greater risk. All people over age 50 need a screening. People who suffer from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease face higher risk of colorectal cancer. Certain races and ethnic groups—African-Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan natives, Latinos, and Jews of Eastern European descent—are high risk.

Be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer: a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, blood in stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and chronic fatigue. However, more than half the people diagnosed with colorectal cancer have no symptoms. 

Regular screenings for colorectal cancer are recommended beginning at age 45, according to the American Cancer Society. This can be a stool-based test or an exam of the colon and rectum. Either test is effective, and your physician can tell you which is best for you. These screenings should be done through age 75. After that, talk with your health-care provider about whether you should continue. People older than 85 should no longer get colorectal screenings.

The ACS says on its website that when colorectal cancer is found before it has spread, the “five-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent.” 

Now that you’re aware it’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, talk to your doctor about a screening if your 45 or older.

1
in 9 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 50.

90
percent of new cases occur in people 50 or older.

71
percent were diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease.

67
percent saw at least two doctors, some more than four, before the correct diagnosis.

64
percent of medical professionals did not talk with younger patients about fertility preservation during diagnosis or treatment.

63
percent of patients waited at least three months after noticing symptoms to see a doctor.

50
percent of doctors did not talk to the patient’s family about their elevated risk of the disease and the need for screening.

Source: Colorectal Cancer Alliance

About the author

Leigh Neely

Leigh Neely began her writing career with a weekly newspaper in the Florida panhandle, where she not only did the writing but delivered the papers to the post office and dispensers. She has been writing ever since for a variety of newspapers and magazines from New Jersey to Leesburg. With her writing partner, Jan Powell, Leigh has published two novels as Neely Powell.

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