Warning signs of a common, deadly cancer

Warning signs of a common, deadly cancer

Do you know the most common cancers diagnosed for men and women? The answers might surprise you.

Excluding skin cancers, ranking in the top three for both men and women are lung and colorectal cancer.

And when it comes to the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, colorectal cancer ranks third for both men and women.

In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that this year, 101,420 new cases of colon cancer and 44,180 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed, and more than 51,000 people will die as a result.

Overall, a man’s lifetime risk of developing this deadly form of cancer is approximately 1 in 22. For a woman, her risk drops to 1 in 24.

But the disease is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer because it typically starts as a slow-growing lesion in the colon called a polyp, which can be easily detected by screening tools such as a colonoscopy.

So what do you need to know to protect yourself?

“There are two very important things that should be understood about colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Jeffrey Brasky, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “The first is colon cancer can be a silent disease. What this means is when symptoms present, this may actually be an indication of a more advanced stage of the cancer. This is why getting a colon cancer screening beginning at the age of 50 for those who are not predisposed is so important.”

The second important point: patients under the age of 50 need to be aware of colon cancer symptoms so they can visit their primary doctor or gastroenterologist for medical evaluation if they think something is wrong, says Dr. Brasky.

Those symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • A change in stool caliber
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Low blood count

Want to reduce your risk?

Dr. Brasky offers these tips:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit red meat, eat whole grain foods instead of refined grain foods and limit sugar intake
  • Ensure you are taking part in moderate exercise three to four times a week
  • Find out about your family history, specifically relating to colon cancer and colon polyps
  • Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screenings and get the appropriate screening test for you, dependent on your age and risk factors.

To help determine your risk for this cancer, take our colorectal health assessment by clicking here.

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About the Author

Jackie Hughes
Jackie Hughes

Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.