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Colon Cancer Awareness

January 15, 2018

Knowing symptoms is the first step to prevention

Colon health awareness is in the midst of a “good news-bad news” conundrum. The good news: Awareness is at an all-time high, with national campaigns and regular physician reminders emphasizing the importance of colon cancer screenings.

But, while awareness is on the rise, colon cancer remains a leading cause of death – it’s No. 2 among men and No. 3 for women. And what’s most concerning is an increase in colorectal cancer at earlier ages.

“We are starting to see a younger trend,” says Donna Seidman, RN, BSN, CHPN, gastrointestinal nurse navigator for Overlook Medical Center. “The majority of patients we see range in age from their mid-40s and up. However, we’re starting to see individuals in their late 20s to early 30s. No matter your age, have a conversation with your physician. Evaluation is critical if symptoms are present.”

The best prevention? Regular checkups. You have a better chance of cancer prevention when a physician understands your family history and establishes a colon health baseline. Talk to your doctor to determine which test is best for you. Tests could include a home screening test, fecal occult blood or immunochemical testing, or in-hospital screenings such as a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, barium enema or virtual colonoscopy, all of which are available throughout Atlantic Health System.

It’s also important that you monitor yourself daily, for symptoms such as:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in stool consistency that lasts longer than four weeks
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor right away to determine the next steps needed for complete evaluation.