Team Huddle: Gear up and Get the Facts
It’s important to be aware of signs and symptoms that could indicate colon cancer. Blood in your stool, anemia (a low blood count), unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, or a change in bowel habits should prompt a visit to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation.
The percent of younger people diagnosed with colon cancer is rising.
Who should be screened before age 50?
People are at higher risk than the general population include:
- African Americans (age 45)
- People who have a family history of colon cancer or colon adenomas (age 40 or 10 years prior to age the family member was upon diagnosis
- Those with chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with an extensive disease of the colon
- People have genetic alterations or syndromes, like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), which is a main risk factor
What percentage of colon cancers are diagnosed before age 50?
According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, 5% of individuals in the U.S. will develop colon cancer.
- 90-95% of cases and deaths from colon cancer used to be in individuals over 50.
- 11-18% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in patients under 50.
Are the “younger” cancers more aggressive?
Younger cancers are not necessarily “more aggressive.” When detected early, doctors can treat the cancer appropriately with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as needed.
How does a person under age 50 know to be screened?
- The family history or history of other risk factors as stated above are key.
- If a person has symptoms of blood in the stool, weight loss or change in stool caliber, they should see a gastroenterologist.
- Our doctors are more keen on performing diagnostic colonoscopies on younger patients because we understand they can have diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease or cancer.
What kinds of symptoms indicate a possible colon tumor?
The goal of screening is to catch the precancerous polyp before any symptoms arise. Once you have a tumor, you may have change in stool caliber, blood in the stool, weight loss, chills or abdominal pain that does not improve. It is important to get screened.
Don’t Ignore Symptoms.
Wyatt's Struggle with Colon Cancer at age 28
"How did I get this? Because it’s either hereditary or it’s an older person’s disease.”
Wyatt Smith was diagnosed with colon cancer at 28 and is raising awareness about the disease in people under 50 during ColonCancerAwarenessMonth. Learn more about his story.
Playbook: One Game Changer is a diet tip
One of the most important dietary practices that promotes a healthy gut, and in turn helps to protect against colon cancer, is:
Eat more plants; eat less meat.
Focus on plants that are high in resistant starch and inulin, as well as leafy greens. While meat can be a part of a healthy diet, if you consume too much, it can crowd out fiber-rich, nutrient-dense plant foods that are vital for gut health and colon cancer prevention.
Resistant starches are a specific type of complex carbohydrate that do not get digested in the small intestine but rather travel through the GI tract relatively intact until they reach the colon, where they are fermented by gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Foods high in resistant starches include:
- Green bananas
- Green banana flour
- Green peas
- Uncooked rolled oats
- White beans
Inulin is another type of complex carbohydrate known as a fructan. Like resistant starches, inulin also has prebiotic qualities: it feeds your microbes to promote a healthy gut flora. Foods high in inulin include:
- Chicory root
- Dandelion root