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Colon and Rectal Cancer: What Symptoms Should You Look Out For?

June 11, 2020
Cancer that originates in the colon or rectum is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Nina Ferraris, MD, a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon at GBMC, shared important information about the cancer’s symptoms, treatment options, and prevention to help you spot potential problems early.

“There has been an uptick in the number of younger people being diagnosed with colon cancer,” she explained. “Patients usually do very well when the cancer is found in its early stages. The increase in the number of younger Americans with colon cancer is one factor that has led to new screening guidelines. Screenings should start at age 45 for everyone who is considered to be at average risk. That’s a change from the older recommendation of starting screenings at 50.”

At any age, you should reach out to your primary care provider if you experience symptoms such as changes in stool color or bowel movements, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, or sudden, unexplained weight loss, all of which can be symptoms of colon and rectal cancer.

Dr. Ferraris also discussed how the placement of a tumor affects the type of treatment you’ll receive. Chemotherapy and radiation are usually the first step if you are diagnosed with rectal cancer. On the other hand, surgery is often the best option if the tumor is found in your colon.

What can you do to decrease your risk of colon cancer? Dr. Ferraris recommended that you “be active, try and maintain a healthy weight, eat a high fiber diet, drink plenty of water, and keep your bowel movements as regular as possible.”
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