As more young adults are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, a new study highlights the symptoms that should prompt them to see their doctor.
If you’re under 50 and have symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, or anemia, you may need to be screened for colorectal cancer. In fact, according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, having just one of these symptoms is associated with a nearly doubled risk of colorectal cancer (often abbreviated as colon cancer) in adults under the age of 18. 50 years.
In the presence of two of these symptoms, the risk of colon cancer more than triples. And with at least three of these symptoms, the risk is more than six times higher. Colorectal cancer is not just a disease that affects older people. Young adults should be aware that these signs and symptoms are potentially very telling and should act accordingly, particularly because people under the age of 50 are considered to be at low risk and do not benefit from routine screening for colorectal cancer.
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Many people don’t get screened because they don’t want to have an invasive colonoscopy, which requires preparation beforehand to empty the bowels and then general anesthesia during the procedure. About a third of adults aged 50 to 75, a group long advised to get tested, do not.
Symptoms Commonly Reported Before a Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer
For this new study, researchers looked at insurance data from 113 million adults aged 18 to 64. They compared the symptoms experienced by 5,075 colorectal cancer patients up to two years before their diagnosis with the symptoms experienced during the same period by similar people who did not have colon cancer.
According to the study, about 1 in 5 people with colorectal cancer experienced at least one of the following symptoms between three months and two years before their cancer diagnosis:
About half of people with colon cancer have experienced these symptoms in the three months before diagnosis.
One limitation of the study is that it used insurance records designed for medical billing in the US, which may lack more detailed patient medical information. It is also possible that some people have had symptoms that could be a warning sign of colon cancer, but which have not been noted in insurance records.
It is nevertheless important to know that colorectal cancer is not the prerogative of the elderly. Everyone, regardless of age, should know that symptoms such as continuous abdominal pain and rectal bleeding, along with lab tests showing anemia, can be a sign of colorectal cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor.
But don’t jump to conclusions
Consulting a doctor will not necessarily lead to an invasive screening test. In many cases, the patient and doctor may decide that a diagnosis other than colon cancer is the likely cause, and move forward with a diagnosis and treatment plan that does not include a colonoscopy. If this treatment works within a month or two, chances are that further cancer screening is not needed. If the initial treatment plan does not work and symptoms persist, a colonoscopy should be strongly considered to rule out colorectal cancer.