According to the National Cancer Institute, colon and rectal cancer rank among the most common types of cancer. In fact, only breast cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer are more prevalent than colon and rectal cancer. If you're concerned about colon cancer, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. Staying active, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding nicotine are all ways to lower your risk of colon cancer.
Since early detection usually makes colon cancer easier to treat, getting a colon cancer screening is also important, especially if any of the three following circumstances apply to you.
1. You Are Over a Certain Age
At one time, the age to get your first colon cancer screening was 50 years of age. However, according to the American Cancer Society, this age was lowered to 45 due to the higher rates of colon cancer in people under 50.
After your first screening at age 45, you may need to get screened during regular intervals, or whenever your doctor recommends. You may need regular colon cancer screenings until you turn 75. After that, you may no longer need to get screened.
2. You Have Certain Health Issues
If you have ever had polyps, you are at an increased chance of getting colon cancer, which means you will need to get a colon cancer screening on a regular basis. Polyps are small clumps of cells that form in the lining of the colon. Since polyps can turn into colon cancer, they are removed when they are found.
Here are some other medical issues that increase your chances of getting colon cancer:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Crohn's disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Lynch syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Type 2 diabetes
Since these medical issues increase your chances of colon cancer, you should get regular colon cancer screenings. Also, if you have a personal or family history of colon cancer, you will need to get screened regularly for colon cancer.
3. You Have Symptoms of Colon Cancer
No matter what your age or health status, if you have symptoms of colon cancer, you should get a colon cancer screening.
Some of the most common symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Change in bowel habits
- Change in stool consistency
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent abdominal discomfort
- Unexplained loss of appetite
Weight loss, anemia, and excessive exhaustion may also be signs of colon cancer. Just because you have these symptoms doesn't mean you have colon cancer. However, it is highly recommended you get a screening in order to find an accurate diagnosis.