Colorectal cancer was once considered to be an “older person’s disease,” typically impacting men and women over the age of 55. Recent data has shown that this is no longer the case. A study published on Feb. 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that while the rate of colorectal cancer is declining overall, it is increasing amongst young adults. In fact, someone born in 1990 now has double the risk of early colon cancer and quadruple the risk of early rectal cancer as someone born in 1950.

With a new generation at risk, it’s more important than ever that symptoms of the disease are identified early, so that the proper screenings and treatment can take place.

“Many times patients suffer symptoms of colorectal cancer for months or even years before finally being diagnosed. This is because younger patients often assume their symptoms are due to benign conditions, such as hemorrhoids” says Dr. Vivek Patil, a colorectal surgeon with Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. “It’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek out medical advice if something doesn’t feel right. Colorectal cancer is a beatable disease if found early.”

The signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, which includes both colon and rectal cancer, include:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Blood in the stool, which may make it look dark
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

There are several screening options for colorectal cancer, including a stool test, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, all of which can be performed at Shady Grove Medical Center.

“More than 60 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided with screening and early detection” says Dr. Patil. “I encourage anyone, regardless of age, that is exhibiting symptoms of the disease to come in and get checked out.”

This March, take Adventist HealthCare’s free and easy colorectal cancer risk assessment and learn you risk for colon and rectal cancer. By completing the free online health risk assessment, you have a chance to win a Series 2 Apple Watch!