Colon cancer is one of the most prominent and dangerous forms of cancer there is, and yet it doesn't get the same exposure as other cancers.
In 2016, 140,000 people in the US were diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, and it is the fourth most common cancer over-all.
Perhaps the taboo of talking about this type of cancer leads to it being overlooked, but that is why it is so important to realise the signs. The earlier it is caught, the chance of it being successfully treated is much higher.
Look out for the signs below and don't ignore them. Contact your GP immediately if you are worried about these early signs of colon cancer.
Abdominal cramps are one of the big indicators of colon cancer. Cramps are normal and they vary person to person, but if you are experiencing cramps that last for days and are severe in pain, contact your GP.
Fatigue effects us all, with lack of sleep being one of the main reasons people feel tired. But if you are unusually fatigued when you are getting enough sleep and eating well, this could be a sign of colon cancer. Cancer causes fatigue as the new cancer cells in the body take energy away from normal bodily processes.
Sudden Weight Loss
If you lose 5% of your body weight in six months without trying, this is classed as 'unexplained' weight loss, and could be a sign of colon cancer. The weight loss is caused by the immune system fighting extra hard to stop the cancer cells from multiplying, or if there is a large tumor in the colon, this can cause a blockage which results in weight loss.
Irregular Bowel Movements
To be aware of changes in your body, you should become aware of the pattern of your bowel movements. A change in bowel movements can indicate a problem, as colon polyps, which are small bunches of cells that can become cancerous over time, begin to affect bowel movements when they turn into tumors. Loose stools, or constipation can be a sign of colon cancer, if they are not connected to another health problem. Again, contact your GP if you notice a dramatic change in your bathroom habits.
Blood in your stool can be a sign of colon cancer that is often overlooked as people are too embarrassed to discuss this with their doctor. Even if the reason is not colon cancer, but something else, blood in your stool should always be investigated as it may be something else serious.
To lower your risk of colon cancer, and for better digestive health in general, here are some changes to make to your lifestyle:
Eat your fruits, veggies, and grains. A diet containing lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer, and diets high in processed meat have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.
Exercise regularly. Being physically inactive has been linked to an increased risk of developing colon while increasing activity reduces your risk.
Watch your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking has been linked to the development of colon cancer. Limit your intake to two alcoholic drinks a day.
Don't smoke. Smoking has been associated with an increased risk of developing a variety of cancers, one of them being the colon.
Lose weight. Being overweight/obese not only increases your risk of developing colon cancer, but it also increases your risk of dying from it.