Too often, colon cancer patients and survivors tell the same story about their experience: “I didn’t show any early signs or symptoms,” they say. “I didn’t think I needed to be screened for colon cancer.”
In reality, everyone should get screened as recommended by his or her doctor. In many cases, colon cancer does not have any early signs or symptoms.
Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer, and in 2010 over 130,000 people were diagnosed.1 The fact that, in many of these situations, the patient did not have any symptoms is without any doubt a factor that contributes to colon cancer incidence and death rates.
It is for this reason that colon cancer screening is so important. Since patients may not experience early signs or symptoms, the best way to decrease colon cancer risk is to follow the U.S. screening guidelines.
These guidelines state that all average risk adults ages 50-75 should be screened for colorectal cancer.2 The frequency of screening varies depending on the screening method of choice.
How Does Colon Cancer Screening Work?
Colon cancer is regarded as the most preventable, yet least prevented cancer,3 but what exactly does this mean? Why is it so important to detect colon cancer in its earliest stages?
Colon cancer usually begins with a “bump” or polyp on the lining of the colon wall. These bumps can vary in both size and shape. Most polyps are not cancer and the chance of developing polyps increases as you get older.
If a polyp is detected, it can usually be removed during a colonoscopy.
Research shows that if the polyp is undetected or ignored, the likelihood that the bump will grow and become cancerous increases significantly.
If cancerous polyps are detected early through screening, the likelihood of surviving five years after the treatment phase is about 90%.4 Unfortunately, a majority of colon cancers are diagnosed in the late stage, when the survival rates decline significantly.
Source: Cancer.org "Colon Cancer: Catching it Early"
Are There Any Symptoms That May Suggest Colon Cancer?
The reality is that most cases of colon cancer do not show signs or symptoms. Even if they do, the cancer may have already progressed to a late stage.
However, some symptoms to look for include:
- Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)
- Change in bowel habits including frequency, consistency, color, and shape
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
- Unexplained weight loss
O.K., I’ll Get Screened. What Next?
Way to go! Research shows that if all adults ages 50-75 followed the recommended screening guidelines, up to 60% of colon cancer-related deaths could be prevented.5
Talk to your doctor about the best screening option for you, and encourage your friends and loved ones to take this courageous step to improve their health and protect their future!