Colorectal cancer is the third most-common non-skin cancer in the United States, and more than ninety percent of new cases afflict people over age 50. For men and women of all backgrounds it is the second most common cause of cancer deaths, and it will kill more than 50,000 people this year. Early detection is the best defense against this disease and addressing the risk factors is the best form of prevention. Home care solutions that provide lifestyle changes are one of the best ways to manage the preventable risk factors. If you’re providing home care in San Diego, you need to know the signs and symptoms of this often-covert disease.

Colorectal cancer affects the colon or the rectum, and can refer to either colon or rectum cancer, or both. The colon and the rectum are part of the digestive system, and it’s no coincidence that many of the non-hereditary risk factors involve diet and alcohol. Most colorectal cancer appears first as polyps, abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that can become cancerous if left to grow in place. Screening regularly for colorectal cancer allows doctors to remove the polyps before they become cancerous. Even if cancer develops and reaches the lymph nodes, chemotherapy after surgery is very effective. While the American Cancer Association recently changed their guidelines to recommend that screening begin at age 45 instead of 50, on average only 67% of US adults follow the recommendation. Adults with average risk only need a test every ten years, but many people dread the colonoscopy. Fortunately, an annual mail-from-home fecal test is now available, which can and should make compliance with the testing guidelines easier.

Obviously, age is a primary risk factor for developing colorectal cancer. There are other factors, per the website, some that can be controlled, and others that can’t:

  • “Unavoidable factors include:
    • a prior history of colon polyps
    • a prior history of bowel diseases
    • a family history of colorectal cancer
    • having a genetic syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
    • being of Eastern European Jewish or African descent
  • Manageable factors include:
    • being overweight or obese
    • smoking
    • heavy drinking of alcohol
    • having type 2 diabetes
    • having a sedentary lifestyle
    • consuming a diet high in processed foods or red meats”

If your personal or family medical history puts you at risk, then early and consistent screening should be a priority. If your lifestyle puts you at risk, then changing your diet, exercising more, quitting smoking and moderating your alcohol intake can help reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer in future. outlines many helpful prevention tips for improving your risk profile.

Whether you’re just 45, an older adult who’s regularly screened, or someone giving in home care in San Diego, you need to know the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, not every patient shows symptoms at first. Per the Mayo Clinic, these are some of the signs that may indicate the early stages of colorectal cancer:

  • “A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss”

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself, or in your loved one, then consult a doctor immediately. If other conditions like extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss or weakness, vomiting, and issues with bowel movements develop, your condition may be much more urgent. It bears repeating that early and consistent screening is the best method of prevention of this common cancer. Fortunately for those receiving San Diego home care, San Diego has a wide array of information, screening and treatment resources available.