Screening has become one of the most important tools in detecting and preventing colon cancer. But doctors say patients shouldn’t wait to be screened if they are experiencing symptoms.
Dr. Mark Bloomston, a surgical oncologist on staff with Lee Health, says it’s one of the most common cancers for men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates in 2017 more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed. “Changes that they need to pay attention to are certain changes in their bowel habits. If they’re noticing that their stool is thinner, or maybe less frequent, or maybe they’re becoming increased in frequency. Something has changed beyond the norm that they are used to.”
Doctors say the number one sign is blood in the stool. “Certainly, blood in the stool is abnormal. I don’t care if you have a history of hemorrhoids or not they have to pay attention to those things,” said Dr. Bloomston.
Colonoscopies are recommended at age 50, but doctors say if patients are having symptoms they may need to be screened earlier. “The group of patients under the age of 50 that would not normally be routinely screened, we’re seeing a huge increase in the incidents in colorectal cancer in that population for reasons that are not very clear,” said Dr. Bloomston.
Family history and diet can play a role in colon cancer. In general, doctors recommend patients be screened 10 years earlier than the youngest person in their family diagnosed with colon cancer. “In the western world we’re a fairly constipated society. A lot of that has to do with our diet. We typically have a low fiber diet, which promotes constipation and doesn’t allow for bulky stools,” said Dr. Bloomston.
Fiber diets, regular bowel movements, and screenings can help prevent colon cancer.
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