Every year, about 135,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer. It’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer for both men and women.
The disease often begins as a growth called a polyp inside the colon or rectum.
If colon cancer is detected early, the survival rate can be quite high.
Because early detection is the key, knowing the warning signs and how family history affects an individual’s risk is very important.
That risk can vary based on who has had cancer — and when. If cancer develops, catching it early can be the key to better outcomes.
The vast majority of colorectal cancers arise from polyps, so screening is important, especially if you are in a high-risk category because of your age or genetic predisposition for cancer.
Therefore, doctors should recommend cancer screenings at different ages depending on a patient’s personal and family history.
If polyps are found and removed early, they can be prevented from growing into cancers.
The regular screenings are for people ages 50 and older, which may help prevent the disease.
But besides that, you should pay attention to some warning signs.
If you have any of the five following symptoms, notify your doctor. They may determine whether you need special testing.
Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
Persistent or recurring abdominal pain
Unexplained or unintended weight loss
Changes in bowel habits, including stools that are narrower than usual
These symptoms aren’t always indicators of colon cancer. Many of these symptoms are common and can be caused by other health conditions.
Still, they should be enough to warrant a visit to your doctor — and, if you haven’t done so already, a review of your family’s health history.
Generally, the average individual’s lifetime risk for colorectal cancer is about 5%.
But family history of colorectal cancer can have a major impact on your cancer risk.
If you have one first-degree relative with colorectal cancer, your risk is roughly double.
If you have multiple relatives with colorectal cancer, and especially cancers diagnosed at younger ages, then your risk is much higher.
Source: Michigan Medicine.