Schedule your colonoscopy today.

Colorectal cancer on the rise in young adults

Health

Colorectal cancer on the rise in young adults

Colorectal cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death for men under 50 and the second-leading cause of death for women in the same age group, according to a new study.
The new numbers from the American Cancer Society paint a startling picture of the rise of colorectal cancer. In the late 1990s, it was the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in both men and women but has now jumped to the top spot.
“Colorectal cancer is certainly becoming more prevalent in younger patients,” says Tidelands Health gastroenterologist Dr. Christopher Bach, medical director of digestive health at Tidelands Health. “The newest data confirms what we’ve been seeing. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for people of any age, including those younger than 45, to talk to their doctor about their family history of the disease and to seek care for any suspicious symptoms they may have.”
Although experts are still seeking to better understand the causes of the trend, many experts believe that lifestyle factors such as increased obesity rates, diets high in processed foods, a lack of physical activity, nicotine consumption and increased alcohol consumption are likely contributing factors.
“The good news is that colon cancer can be prevented with routine colonoscopies,” Dr. Bach says. “The procedure is the best way to detect colon cancer early when it’s most easily and effectively treated. It is also important to discuss any sudden changes in your bowel habits with your doctor.”

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A life-saving screening

During a colonoscopy, patients are sedated while a specially trained physician inserts a thin, fiberoptic instrument with a tiny camera through the anus to allow a doctor to examine the lining of the colon and check for inflammation and precancerous polyps. The outpatient procedure typically takes about 20 minutes. It is the best colorectal screening test available. Other approaches, such as stool tests, are not as accurate as colonoscopy.
Colon cancer starts as a colon polyp. During a colonoscopy, doctors will remove any polyps they find — which eliminates the risk that the polyp will ever turn into cancer.
Colonoscopy is the “gold standard” for colon cancer detection and prevention in the U.S., Dr. Bach says: “A colonoscopy truly can save your life.”

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When to begin screening

Screening colonoscopies typically begin for average-risk Americans at the age of 45. Depending on the findings, subsequent screening intervals will be recommended by your physician. Intervals of five or 10 years are common.
People at increased risk for the disease, such as those with inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer, should discuss individualized recommendations for colonoscopies with their care provider, including the timing of the first screening and the frequency of subsequent screenings. If you have questions about your unique circumstance, speak to your health care provider.
Sometimes patients don’t think they’re at risk for colorectal cancer because no one in their family has ever had the disease, but more than 80 percent of cases occur in someone without a family history of the illness, and colon cancer is often asymptomatic in the early stages.
According to the American Cancer Society, symptoms of colon cancer can include:

    • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
    • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
    • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
    • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
    • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
    • Weakness and fatigue
    • Unintended weight loss

Although these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, it’s important to seek prompt medical care to determine the cause.

Schedule a colonoscopy today

If you would like to schedule a routine colonoscopy, call 1-866-TIDELANDS to make an appointment with a provider at Tidelands Health Gastroenterology at Murrells Inlet, Tidelands Health Gastroenterology at Georgetown or Tidelands Health Gastroenterology at The Market Common.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Christopher Bach

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