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Colon Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors

    • Colon cancer symptoms don’t usually appear until the cancer has advanced to later stages, which is why colon cancer screening and knowing your risk factors is so important.

    • Symptoms of Colon Cancer

    • Early on, colorectal cancer or polyps are small and may not cause any symptoms. As the growths increase in size, the most common symptoms of colon cancer are blood in stool, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits (increasing constipation or diarrhea) or unexplained weight loss. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:

      • Rectal bleeding
      • Stomach discomfort
      • Loss of appetite
      • Persistent stomach bloating
      • Anemia

    • Colon Cancer Risk Factors

    • Age is the biggest risk factor for colorectal cancer. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people aged 50 or older. Other factors that increase risk include: inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s), a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps (especially if these occur in young age) and a genetic syndrome such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). And while men also have a slightly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than women, women are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage. (Watch a short video about who's at risk for colon cancer with Santa Rosa Gastroenterologist Frank Anderson.)

      Race plays a role in colon cancer risk as well. From 1999-2007, African Americans had the highest incidence rate of colorectal cancer, Caucasians had the second highest rate of getting colorectal cancer, followed by Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian.
      But there are ways you can minimize your risk. Sticking to a low-fat diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can help to protect your health. Most important of all is regular screening.

      “We typically recommend a first colonoscopy at age 40 for people with a family history of colorectal cancer and additional screenings every three to five years,” says Vallejo Oncologist Chainarong Limvarapuss, M.D., at Sutter Solano Cancer Center.Opens new window. “If the disease does not run in your family, we encourage a first colonoscopy at age 50. How frequently you need follow-up screenings depends on your initial results.”

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