Keep an Eye Out for These Early Signs of Colon Cancer

Researchers pinpoint the signals to look for in disease seeing a rise among young adults
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2023 11:27 AM CDT
As This Cancer Rises in Young Adults, Some Early Signs
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/AndreyPopov)

Colon cancer is on the rise among young adults, and the cases have been much more aggressive than they used to be. That's why scientists hope the public pays attention to info out of a new study from St. Louis' Washington University School of Medicine, which looked for early signals that someone may have colon cancer. NBC News notes that young adults typically don't qualify for colonoscopies—that procedure is usually only offered at or after age 45—which is why the "red-flag signs and symptoms" spelled out in the research published Thursday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute are so important to look for and keep tabs on.

Among those early symptoms cited by the researchers, who looked at data from more than 5,000 patients diagnosed with early-onset colorectal cancer: extended bouts of diarrhea that seem to come out of nowhere, bellyaches, and iron-deficiency anemia. A fourth symptom, rectal bleeding, should especially raise eyebrows. These signs appeared up to two years before the patients' diagnoses, with almost half of the study's subjects experiencing at least one of those symptoms three months before diagnosis.

Researchers say people are often shy about talking to anyone about such things, especially when it comes to bloody stools and other subjects related to that part of the body, but that they shouldn't be. "It can be difficult or embarrassing to talk about," Dr. Matthew Kalady of Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center tells NBC. "But the reality is everybody deals with something like this." The study's authors urge anyone with such symptoms, especially if they last more than a week, to see their doctor, as they stress that colon cancer is a very treatable condition if caught early enough. (More discoveries stories.)

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