People who pay attention to their digestive system are more likely to notice worrisome symptoms and seek medical attention sooner, said Dr. Amit Singal and colleague at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
And when colon cancer is caught early, it is usually easier to treat, Singal explained.
“The old saying ‘listen to your gut’ holds true when it comes to your health. If you notice differences that persist more than a week, contact your physician,” he said in a hospital news release. Singal is a gastroenterologist and an associate professor of internal medicine and clinical sciences.
“Many conditions can cause digestive symptoms, but if it is cancer and you catch it early, you’ll have a better prognosis,” he added.
that should not be ignored include:
- A change in the diameter of your bowel movements,
- Bloody bowel movements,
- Black stools,
- Lower belly pain or discomfort that persists.
Starting at age 50, everyone should be screened for colon cancer—even if no symptoms are present.
Singal said there are a few ways doctors test for colon cancer, including:
- Colonoscopy: This test examines the colon and allows doctors to remove polyps before they can grow and become cancerous.
- FIT (fecal immunochemical test): This test detects blood in the stool.
A new colon cancer blood test, approved this year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, may be an option for patients who are not at high risk for the disease, Singal said.
Be aware of your family history and whether any of your relatives have had colon cancer, especially before age 50, he advised.