March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Piedmont HealthCare encourages all of its patients to recognize the signs of colon cancer and get regular screening to detect abnormal or cancerous cells, leading to a higher treatment success rate.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Many colon cancer symptoms mimic those of other intestinal or bowel disorders. Schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Change in bowel habits that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you have to have a bowel movement that is not relieved when you do
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark or bloody stools
- Cramping and abdominal pain
- Unintended weight loss
Early Detection Is Key
Colon cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until it is advanced. It’s recommended that men and women with an average risk of developing colon cancer begin regular screenings starting at age 50, whether or not they are presenting symptoms. Tests can detect polyps (abnormal growths) before they become cancerous or remove cancerous polyps in their early stages. Regular screening options include:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (completed every 5 years)
- Colonoscopy (completed every 10 years)
- Double-contrast barium enema (completed every 5 years)
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy – completed every 5 years)
If you have a family history of colon cancer or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your physician about more frequent colon cancer screenings beginning before age 50.
Besides skin cancers, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. As more people hear the call for proper screening and advancements are made in colon cancer treatment, the survivor rate is increasing. If you fit the screening criteria or have experienced symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your physician.