June 1, 2021
Colorectal Cancer and Young Adults: Is There Cause for Concern?
You may assume that colorectal cancer is a disease that only impacts older people. However, this type of cancer is becoming more common in young adults ages 30-45. While it is very serious, there is much hope for colorectal cancer patients especially if it’s caught early. Colorectal cancer treatments have improved greatly in recent years, and early diagnosis has improved the success rates. That's why younger people need to know what early symptoms are and get proper treatment as soon as possible if they notice anything out of the ordinary.
To help you stay informed, let's discuss what colorectal cancer is, common symptoms, and how you can reduce your risk.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Cancer of the colon or rectum is referred to as colorectal cancer. It affects both men and women and is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. Colorectal cancer usually starts as a small growth, known as a polyp, in the lining of the rectum or colon. Often, polyps are not cancerous, but cancer can develop from these growths.
Common Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
While some people have no symptoms, these are the most common signs to watch for:
- Bloody or black stools
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Sudden weight loss
- Cramping in the lower stomach, gas, or pain
- Bowel doesn't feel completely emptied after having a bowel movement
- Unexplained tiredness
- Skinny/thin feces
- Frequent constipation or diarrhea
Many of these symptoms can also be linked to other health conditions. But if you notice any of these symptoms or other sudden changes in your health, contact your doctor right away.
Why Are More Young People Being Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer?
The American Cancer Society states that people born after 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer than people born in 1950 (the year with the lowest reported risk).
Unfortunately, the reason for the significant increase in risk is not known. Some researchers believe there may be a genetic link causing the increased risk. Other factors may be causing the increase, including:
- Consumption of more processed foods
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet
- Lack of exercise
- Drinking alcohol
- Higher obesity rates
- Higher diabetes rates
- Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
Significant lifestyle changes since 1950 regarding diet and exercise may be related to the increase of colorectal cancer diagnosis rates. It's also important to note that researchers are gaining more insight into the specifics of colorectal cancer in young people. For example, cancer in young adults is usually found in the rectum or on the left side of the colon lining. Research like this is helping doctors improve diagnosis and treatments.
Screening and Colorectal Cancer Risk Reduction
While it may not be possible to prevent colorectal cancer, there are some things you can do to lower your risk. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:
- Participate in regular exercise
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoid processed foods
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Being aware of the risk factors of colorectal cancer and scheduling regular colorectal cancer screenings are essential ways to lower your risk. Typically, screenings start at the age of 50. However, your doctor may suggest this screening sooner if you're in a high-risk category. While there are different forms of screening, the first step is the initial stool test that is used to identify DNA changes in the cells of the stool sample. If abnormal DNA is detected, then you’ll move forward with a colonoscopy.
What to Do If You Have Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
If you are at risk or show early signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, it's important to talk to your primary care doctor immediately. If testing shows that you have cancer, your doctor will refer you to a cancer specialist, also known as an oncologist. The oncologist will do additional testing and identify the best colorectal cancer treatment plan for you. Remember, finding it early is key! So don’t wait if you notice something unusual.
If you're located in the Southern Chicago area, Affiliated Oncologists’ colorectal cancer specialists are available to review your tests, discuss your diagnosis and create a customized treatment plan for you.
We are committed to providing the best care for our patients and ensuring that you have the most updated information regarding your diagnosis.
Categories: Colorectal Cancer