Regardless of how old you are, Safa advises, your risk of colorectal cancer increases significantly if you have a parent or sibling with the disease. “A family history of cancer in relatives such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents is also relevant, and that information should be shared with your doctor.”
It is also important to let your doctor in on the details if you notice certain changes. Here are a few signs you should not ignore:
• Blood in your stool
• Changes in bowel habits
• Constipation or diarrhea
• Alternating constipation and diarrhea
• Abdominal bloating, cramps, or discomfort
• A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
• Extreme, unexplained weight loss.
Screening can save lives
“Precancerous polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer do not always cause symptoms, which is one reason screening is so important,” Safa said. “Most cases of colorectal cancer start as a growth called a polyp inside the colon. Screening can find polyps, and they can then be removed before they become cancer. If you wait for symptoms to develop, the disease is likely to be in an advanced state.”
Talk with your doctor to decide on an appropriate screening schedule. “Colonoscopies remain the standard for screening, but it is important to consult your doctor about which screening is right for you,” Safa noted.