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Picture a Patient With Colorectal Cancer

March 18, 2022

What comes to mind when picturing a patient with colorectal cancer? Did you envision an older man? Perhaps over 65? If so, you’re not alone. There are long-held impressions of what a patient with colorectal cancer “looks like,” but the truth is anyone can get a colorectal cancer diagnosis, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.

Recent studies underscore the fact that colorectal cancer is on the rise.
  • By 2026, colorectal cancer is expected to become the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women under 50.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates 151,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S. this year. Approximately 70,000 of them will be women, contradicting the perception that colorectal cancer largely affects men.
  • The incidence of early onset (below age 50) colorectal cancer is higher among non-Hispanic whites, American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Blacks.

That picture of colorectal cancer? It’s changed. That’s why it is critical to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer—and to take preventative actions that will help you improve your health and minimize your risk.

Early Prevention is Key

Lifestyle choices play a significant role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. Small changes or additions to your daily routine can have significant impact. Consider adding a serving of vegetables to your dinner plate or taking a regular evening walk with a friend or family member to help you both stay active.
Maintaining a healthy weight, incorporating key nutrients into your diet, and pursuing daily physical activities are great ways to reduce your risk. Limiting alcohol consumption and quitting tobacco use will also improve your overall health and lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

Get Screened

In its early stages, colorectal cancer might not present noticeable symptoms, which is why screenings are crucial.

Men and women ages 45 and older, with an average risk for developing colorectal cancer, should discuss the most appropriate screening test with their physician. These include fecal occult blood tests, sigmoidoscopies, colonoscopies, virtual colonoscopies, or DNA stool tests. If you are younger than 45, you should discuss early screening for colorectal cancer with your physician if you are experiencing colorectal cancer symptoms, have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, or have a genetic risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Screenings should occur every five to ten years, depending on which type of screening method is used and your individual risk factors and family history. While new testing methods have emerged, it is worth noting that oncologists still view colonoscopies as the gold standard for screening because they can remove polyps – which can be precursors of cancer – during the procedure. If it’s time for you to have a colonoscopy, this video will help you know what to expect.

Know the Signs

While people 50 years and older have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, the number of people diagnosed under 50 is steadily increasing. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and to schedule an appointment with your physician if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Sudden change in bowel habits
  • Cramping or stomach discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Narrow stools
  • Feeling like the bowel doesn’t fully empty
  • Frequent gas or bloating
  • Feelings of weakness or continued fatigue

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Now is the perfect time to educate yourself, your friends, and your family members on the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. Encourage your loved ones 45 years and older to schedule regular screenings. Talking about colorectal cancer with others can save lives.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.