Colon cancer has become an alarming concern for younger adults, with an increasing number of diagnoses in individuals under 50. In response to this worrisome trend, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has updated its recommendations, advising colon cancer screenings to begin at age 45 instead of 50.
Colorectal cancer, encompassing both colon and rectal cancer, involves the uncontrolled growth of cells in the colon or rectum, often starting as polyps that may develop into cancer over time. Although relatively rare in young adults, it is the third most common cancer worldwide and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
Recognizing the early signs of colon cancer is crucial for timely detection. Symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, blood in or on the stool, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, constipation, unexpected weight loss, cramping, belly pain, weakness, and fatigue. Consulting a physician is essential to determine the cause of these symptoms and to start the proper treatment plan.
Health experts are perplexed by the increase in colon cancer cases among young adults and suspect that lifestyle factors, such as poor diet and lack of physical activity, may play a role. A study conducted in 2017 revealed that millennials face twice the risk of colorectal cancer compared to individuals born in 1950, and those under 55 are nearly 60% more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage disease.
Colonoscopies remain the gold standard for colon cancer screening. This procedure allows doctors to inspect the colon’s interior directly and remove potential precancerous polyps during the examination. Although other screening tests exist, such as stool tests, they may not be suitable for all patients, especially those at higher risk.
Given the escalating prevalence of colon cancer among younger adults, the recommended age for screening has been reduced to 45.
If any symptoms of colon cancer are present, individuals should not hesitate to advocate for screening, even if they are below the recommended age.
Upon detecting precancerous polyps, further action depends on the physician’s findings. Non-cancerous polyps may be monitored with check-ups every 7-10 years, while precancerous polyps can be safely removed to prevent the development of colon cancer.
The treatment plan for colorectal cancer patients varies depending on the cancer type, size, and spread, with potential treatments including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Openly communicating with your doctor to better understand the diagnosis and treatment options is crucial for effective management.
Being vigilant about the early signs of colon cancer and actively seeking screening can ensure any issues that are found are caught early and, if necessary, proper treatment can begin. Catching colon cancer early leads to much better outcomes and can ultimately save lives.
For expert guidance and support in managing colorectal health, schedule a consultation with Dr. Hakiman or Dr. Patel at Arizona Colorectal Experts today. Call us at 602-844-5157 or use our online scheduling tool.