Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, is one of the most common types of cancers in the U.S. In 2013, The American Cancer Society estimates that the number of colorectal cancer cases will reach over 100,000 in the U.S. Your chances of developing colon cancer in your lifetime is roughly 1 in 20, or 5%. Luckily, colon cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancers. In order to catch it early, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors and signs of colon cancer and to be aware of the tests you can take advantage of to detect it.
There are many risk factors associated with colorectal cancer. However, it’s important to remember that just because you might have some of these risk factors, it does not mean with certainty that you will get colon cancer. Similarly, even if you don’t have risk factors for colon cancer, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it.
According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors include the following. Firstly is age. It’s possible for an adult of any age to develop colon cancer, however 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are at least fifty years old. Family history is another important risk factor. Though most people who develop colon cancer don’t have a family history of the disease, 1 in 5 do. And your risk is doubled for people with a “first-degree” relative with colorectal cancer. (First-degree relatives include parents, siblings, and children). Diet is another risk factor. People who diets high in red and processed meats are at increased risk. Conversely, people who eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are at decreased risk.Visit the American Cancer Society site for a complete list of risk factors (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/detailedguide/colorectal-cancer-risk-factors).
Knowing what types of things may put you at risk of colon cancer is important. However, that won’t help you if you don’t know what signs indicate that you already have it. Some of it isn’t very pleasant to think about, but it’s important to know. Signs of colon cancer include unexplained weight loss, stomach aches or pains that won’t go away, blood in your stool, number of bowel movements, change in the appearance of your stool, nausea or vomiting, and persistent fatigue. If you have any of the following symptoms it’s important to contact your primary care physician (PCP) immediately.
Unfortunately,symptoms don’t appear unless you already have colon cancer. That’s why it’s extremely important to get screened regularly. There are many types of colon cancer screening test. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is one of the least invasive. Done at home, the FIT test involves using a small brush to obtain a stool sample which you then scrape on a testing strip that’s sent to a lab. The FIT test is recommended once per year. Another test is a flexible sigmoidoscopy and is recommended once every five years. During this test, the doctor will use a special lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope to look inside your rectum. If anything is found, he will recommend a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is recommended once every ten years. It’s similar in procedure to a sigmoidoscopy, only it uses a colonscope and looks inside the entire colon. Each of these tests is covered by Viva Medicare Plus.
In conclusion, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors associated with colon cancer. It’s also important to know the signs in case you develop it. Most importantly, however, is getting screened.