Warning signs of a common, dangerous cancer
Do you know the most common cancers diagnosed for men and women? The answers might surprise you.
Excluding skin cancers, ranking near the top for both men and women are lung and colorectal cancer.
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.”
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:
- A change in stool caliber
- 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 quiz by clicking here.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.