The 5 colon cancer warning signs you should know

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Colon cancer is frightening. Many of us have known someone who has died from it. Worldwide, the incidence is rising, and even worse, it’s becoming more prevalent in younger people. Rates in under 50 year olds are climbing. Colon cancer is often diagnosed late in young people, because the symptoms get attributed to irritable bowel syndrome. Usually no one suspects that the symptoms could be due to colon cancer.

A recent study has identified four signs and symptoms that may be red flags of colon cancer.

The signs and symptoms are: abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhoea, and iron deficiency

The researchers stated that rectal bleeding and iron deficiency in particular should be promptly investigated thoroughly by a gastroenterologist. Senior researcher in the study, Yin Cao, ScD, with Washington University School of Medicine said “Colorectal cancer is not simply a disease affecting older people; we want younger adults to be aware of and act on these potentially very telling signs and symptoms — particularly because people under 50 are considered to be at low risk, and they don’t receive routine colorectal cancer screening. It’s also crucial to spread awareness among primary care doctors, gastroenterologists, and emergency medicine doctors. To date, many early-onset colorectal cancers are detected in emergency rooms, and there often are significant diagnostic delays with this cancer.”

Another study, published May 4 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a strong association between appendicitis in adults and colon cancer. The study looked at virtually every case of appendicitis in young and middle-aged adults in France between 2010 and 2015. In a significant percentage of individuals, there was a short interval between appendicitis and cancer diagnosis. Therefore, the study suggested that appendicitis could be an early warning sign of colon cancer rather than a cause of it. Hence any adult who suffers with appendicitis should be thoroughly tested for colon cancer.

In the study, patients’ risk of colon cancer nearly quadrupled within a year of being treated for acute appendicitis.

The incidence of colon and rectal cancer among younger people increased by more than 11 percent between 2004 and 2014. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016 approximately 135,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. One in seven of them are under the age of 50. Individuals born in 1990 have double the risk of developing colon cancer, and four times the risk of rectal cancer than those born around 1950. Colorectal cancer statistics are very similar in Australia.

Please don’t self diagnose digestive symptoms

Most doctors traditionally have considered blood in your stool and a change in bowel habits as the most common symptoms, but often there are no symptoms at all until the disease has spread. Many people (and many doctors) dismiss blood in the stool as simply caused by haemorrhoids or fissures. Yes these are the most common causes in younger people, but every instance of blood in the stool should be investigated.

Becoming a little bit constipated, or experiencing constipation alternating with mild diarrhoea are other common symptoms of bowel cancer. Many people dismiss them as irritable bowel syndrome, particularly if they’ve lived with this condition for most of their life. The underlying message I would like to give you is never self diagnose your symptoms. Please visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Most of the time they will not be caused by anything serious, but it’s important for that to be ruled out.

Last year researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center predicted that cases of colon cancer in people aged 20 to 34 will rise by 90 percent by 2030. They predict the number of rectal cancer cases to more than double. How can you look after your bowel health? There are a number of risk factors for colorectal cancer: high alcohol intake, high sugar intake, vitamin D deficiency, being overweight and a sedentary lifestyle. Carrying excess weight is a significant cancer risk factor because fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals. People with higher levels of inflammation in their body have a higher incidence of cancer. C-reactive protein is one potential indicator of inflammation. Overweight people and type 2 diabetics often have higher levels.

The biggest determinant of your bowel health and your overall health is your diet. What you eat each day determines the type of microbes that are living in your bowel. Diets high in sugar and processed food promote the growth of bad bacteria such as enterococcus, streptococcus, clostridia and Candida. For more information see Dr Cabot’s book Healthy Bowel, Healthy Body.

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