If You Notice This in the Bathroom Before 45, Get Checked for Cancer
Watch out for this telltale sign of a deadly form of cancer.
Colorectal cancer affects one in every 24 adults, making it the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among Americans. According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, it's also the second leading cause of cancer deaths across all genders: More than 52,500 people die from colorectal cancer in the U.S. each year. That's why it's crucial to know the signs of this type of cancer, and to schedule regular screenings once you reach the age of 45. It's also why experts say that if you notice particular changes in the bathroom before then, it's important to request an earlier exam. Read on to find out what warning sign you may notice in the bathroom, and which factors could put you at heightened risk for colorectal cancer.
If you notice changes in your bowel habits, it could be a sign of colon cancer.
When it comes to colorectal cancer, you're most likely to notice symptoms that relate to your bathroom habits. Changes that persist for longer than a few days warrant a call to your doctor and may necessitate colon cancer screening. In particular, experts from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) say to look out for diarrhea, constipation, narrow stool, rectal bleeding, bloody stool, and "a persistent urge to have a bowel movement that doesn't go away after you have one."
The severity of your colorectal cancer symptoms may vary depending on the size and location of the cancer, says the Mayo Clinic. Because tumors typically begin as small polyps within the digestive tract and grow over time, you're unlikely to notice symptoms in the earliest stages.
If you're under 45, it's even more important not to ignore symptoms.
While it's important to follow up on suspicious symptoms at any age, MSKCC experts say that it's "particularly important that you do not ignore symptoms" if you're younger than 45. That's because 45 is the recommended age at which most people begin routine colon cancer screening. Before then, recognizing symptoms is your only line of defense.
Additionally, colon cancer rates are on the rise for younger patients. "In recent years, there has been a troubling rise in colon cancer among people as young as their 20s and 30s who do not have a family history of the disease or typical risk factors," warn MSKCC experts. "If you are under 45 and have worrying symptoms, discuss with your doctor if screening is right for you," they urge.
Look out for these additional symptoms.
Not all colon cancer symptoms are linked to your bathroom habits, and it's important to recognize those more general signs of a problem. These may include unexplained abdominal pain or cramping, unexplained weakness and fatigue, unintended weight loss, or a diagnosis of anemia. Women with colorectal cancer may additionally experience bloating that doesn't go away or which occurs alongside unexplained weight loss.
"Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease," says the Mayo Clinic, making it all the more critical to undergo annual screenings past the age of 45.
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Manage your colon cancer risk factors.
Certain risk factors for colon cancer cannot be changed: your age, race, family history, and the presence of certain inherited syndromes, to name just a few. However, several other factors may be within your control. The Mayo Clinic says that heavy drinking, being overweight or obese, having diabetes or poorly managed blood sugar, leading a sedentary lifestyle, or eating a low-fiber, high-fat diet can all contribute to an increased cancer risk. By making conscious lifestyle changes, you could significantly reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer.
Additionally, your doctor may be able to recommend medication as a preventative measure against colorectal cancer. "Some medications have been found to reduce the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer," the Mayo Clinic says. They warn, however, that these medications are usually prescribed to people who are already at a high risk of colon cancer.
If you believe you may have symptoms of colorectal cancer, or if you are 45 or older and have not yet been screened, schedule a time to speak with your doctor today.