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Why you shouldn’t put off that colon cancer screening

Health & Fitness

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This story is brought to you by Grand Peaks Medical and Dental, a multi-specialty, nonprofit community health center in St. Anthony and Rexburg.

Every March, patients, survivors and caregivers commemorate National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by spreading awareness of a disease that can be hard to detect until it’s too late.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women, the CDC says. It is also the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Idaho, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

“The ability to successfully treat colon cancer when discovered is most often dependent on the early detection of the disease,” said Dr. Trevor Wilde, a family practice physician at Grand Peaks Medical and Dental.

Early detection is the key, and it’s important to realize that cancer isn’t always accompanied by pain. In fact, the most common symptom of colorectal cancer isn’t really even a symptom — it’s age. Anyone 50 and over should be screened, and possibly younger for those with family history or other risk factors, said Wilde.

Nearly all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, and screenings can find the polyps so they can be removed before they turn to cancer. Regular screenings can also find cancer early when treatment works best, according to the CDC.

Colorectal cancer doesn’t always have symptoms, especially in the beginning. That’s why getting screened regularly is so important. In fact, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened routinely.

Here are a few symptoms you can look out for. (Get more info on the CDC’s website.)

  • A change in bowel habits: Watch for unexplained diarrhea, a change in consistency of your stools, or narrower stools than normal.
  • Persistent stomach pain: Be mindful of cramps, pain, a bloating feeling that doesn’t go away, or a feeling that you can’t empty your bowels completely.
  • Rectal bleeding: Tell your doctor if you find blood in your stool.
  • Weakness or fatigue: This symptom can also be followed with unexplained weight loss, nausea and vomiting.

When to seek a doctor’s help

It’s important to realize that these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have colorectal cancer. In fact, the symptoms can be associated with many other health conditions. However, if you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Early detection can save your life.

“In an often treatable disease when discovered early, multiple options for initial screening exist to help overcome the fears or worries surrounding colon cancer screening,” said Wilde.

If you want more information about how to help fight colorectal cancer, click here.