Be aware of colorectal cancer risk, no matter your age

If you are under 40, chances are you may not be thinking about colorectal cancer.

However, a recent study by the American Cancer Society says the death rate for colorectal cancer among adults ages 20 to 54 has been increasing every year since the mid-2000s.

While the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer when it’s diagnosed at an early stage is 90 percent, diagnosis among younger people is often delayed.

Risk factors and preventive care

So when should you schedule your first colonoscopy?

Dr. Eugene Choi in clinic.

Dr. Eugene Choi, surgical oncologist with Baylor College of Medicine, says patients with average risk should start regular screening at age 50.

“African-Americans are diagnosed at younger average ages and therefore should begin screening at age 45. The bottom line is that structural examination (colonoscopy) is the most effective screening, along with regular physician visits,” he said.

Other risk factors that can increase your chances of colorectal cancer are:

  • History of colorectal polyps
  • Ethnicity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Inherited syndromes
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Changes in bowel movements such as prolonged constipation, diarrhea, or narrowing of the stool are common symptoms of colorectal cancer.

Treating colon and rectal cancers

Treating colorectal cancer often requires surgery for colorectal cancer, combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for rectal cancer, Choi says.

“Once the diagnosis is made, we will check for spread of the disease. Patients with colorectal cancer may have surgery laparoscopically, robotically or with an open approach. The minimally invasive approach may decrease blood loss, allow shorter recovery time, and results in fewer wound complications.”

One of the primary concerns after surgery is pain management. Choi says patients may often experience less need for pain medication after minimally invasive procedures.

“It’s always important that patients follow up after a procedure. This way we can ensure they get the most optimal treatment for the disease.”

Additional Resources

Read more information about colorectal cancer.

Learn more about the Colorectal Cancer Program at Baylor.

-By Nicole Blanton

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