David Drake, M.D., gastroenterologist, Long Beach Memorial
Diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool and fatigue from anemia are all common symptoms of colorectal cancer. These symptoms can be embarrassing and not easy to share with loved ones, let alone your physician. But however embarrassing, speaking up about your symptoms is vital to catching colorectal cancer early at a more treatable stage.
Other common signs of colorectal cancer include feeling that your bowel does not empty completely, gas pains, cramps, feeling full or bloated, weight loss, fatigue and nausea.
However, colorectal cancer doesn’t always present symptoms in its early stages, so to prevent it, regular screenings for men and women at average risk begin at age 50.
The gold standard of screening for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, which is recommended every 10 years. For this test, the doctor uses a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the colon. Polyps can be found and removed during this procedure.
The majority of disease prevention is understanding what is normal for your body and becoming your own advocate. If you’re experiencing symptoms, be proactive and schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss options for colorectal cancer screenings.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer. Most colorectal cancer starts out as a polyp. A polyp is an extra piece of tissue that grows inside your body, but is not always cancerous. Polyps also often cause no symptoms. Polyps can easily be identified and removed during a colonoscopy, preventing potential cancers from growing.
The occurrence of polyps become more common as you age. As a result, the risk for developing colorectal cancer rises when you turn 50, but prevention can begin much earlier. According to a recent report published in the journal Cancer, colon cancer among younger patients was often found at an advanced stage, when the disease had spread to other organs. These patients were often diagnosed only after their cancers started to cause symptoms.
You are at a greater risk for colorectal cancer if you have a family history or personal history of colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps or bowel disease.
If you have a family or personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend regular screenings at an earlier age. Share your family health history with your doctor as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you have symptoms.
For patients with confirmed or suspected colorectal cancer, the Colorectal Cancer Program at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers a collaborative and caring approach to diagnosis and treatment.
For more information on screening and treatment options available at Long Beach Memorial, call 800-MEMORIAL.
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