Young adults often don't think about colorectal cancer very much. After all, regular screenings are only recommended for people over the age of 45, and most diagnoses are in seniors. However, it's still possible for young adults to develop it, so it's important to be vigilant for symptoms. This is especially important if you have risk factors for developing it, such as a family history of the disease, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, or excessive alcohol consumption. To learn more about why colorectal cancer screening is important and when you should consider talking to your doctor about it as a young adult, read on.
Why Is Colorectal Cancer Screening Important?
Like most cancers, detecting colorectal cancer early gives you a better chance of successfully recovering from it and putting it into remission. It's very difficult to treat this type of cancer when it metastasizes and begins to spread throughout your colon and into nearby tissues. Detecting it early makes it much easier to surgically remove the tumor.
In addition to early detection giving you a better chance of recovery, it's also possible to remove precancerous polyps during a colonoscopy. Polyps are abnormal growths in the lining of your colon, and they need to be removed before they develop into cancer. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist will use a camera to look at the inside of your colon in order to find any precancerous polyps that have formed there, and they'll remove any that they see. Since a colonoscopy is able to detect these polyps and remove them before they can develop, it's a procedure that works as both a screening tool and a form of treatment.
When Should Young Adults Talk to Their Doctors About Colorectal Cancer Screenings?
If you notice any of the signs of colorectal cancer, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor and inform them of the symptoms that you're experiencing. One of the most common signs is seeing blood in your stool — even a very small amount should be cause for concern. Other conditions like hemorrhoids can also cause this, so it's not always a sign that you have cancer. However, it's still very important to talk to your doctor about it.
Another common sign is a change in your bowel habits that don't have any apparent cause. For example, you may start experiencing diarrhea or constipation without any change in your diet. While these symptoms don't seem serious, they are a potential sign of colorectal cancer, and it's good to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you start experiencing them.
Other symptoms include unexplained weight loss and a change in the size or shape of your stool. While it may feel embarrassing to talk to your doctor about your bowel habits, it's important that they know what's going on. Your doctor will try to rule out other potential causes and will consider a colorectal cancer screening if they're unable to determine any other reason why you're experiencing your symptoms.
Overall, colorectal cancer remains relatively rare in young adults. However, it's often aggressive when it does occur, so it's important to be vigilant. If you have any of the symptoms above, inform your doctor and ask about your options — even if it's unlikely that they're caused by colorectal cancer due to your age, it's important to either rule it out or catch it early with screening.