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5 Common Signs of Colorectal Cancer

5 Common Signs of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (CRC) causes about 50,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Women have about a 4% chance of developing CRC in their lifetimes, and men have a 4.3% chance. That rate goes higher if you’re at increased risk due to familial or personal medical histories.

Caught in an early stage, colon cancer is treatable and even curable. Starting at age 45, everyone should get a stool-based test every 1-3 years, a sigmoidoscopy every five years, a CT colonoscopy every five years, or a traditional colonoscopy every 10 years. Higher risk patients should undergo more regular screens.

At Enrich Family Practice in Odessa, Texas, screening for CRC is part of both women’s health and men’s health. Based on your risk factors, we tell you when it’s best for you to undergo a colonoscopy or other CRC screening. 

No matter what your risk, status, or age, however, our expert nurse practitioners — Maria Cole, APRN, FNP-C, and Kelly Wenger, APRN, FNP-C — want you to stay alert to changes that could signal the presence of CRC. Be sure to contact us right away for evaluation if you notice any of these five most common signs of CRC:

1. Rectal bleeding

Any time you notice blood coming out of your anus or mixed into your stool, don’t panic, but do contact us right away. As with all the signs of CRC, this one could be caused by a variety of conditions, including hemorrhoids. 

If you have CRC, the blood may appear bright red. Your stools may look normal, or they could be darker than normal, including looking dark brown or even black and tarry. 

If you have blood coming from your rectum or in your stool, don’t try to self-diagnose, but seek medical help instead. Even if you don’t have CRC, prolonged rectal bleeding may lead to anemia, which is having a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells.

2. Changes to your bowel movement

You’re probably pretty familiar with your daily bowel habits. If you notice a change that lasts for more than a few days, that could be a sign of a medical condition, including CRC. Changes could include:

Narrowed stools may mean that something is constricting the passage of your stools, including possible tumors.

3. Unexplained weight loss

If you suddenly find yourself losing weight, but never intended to do so, you may have CRC or another type of cancer. Cancer cells require more energy than normal cells do. Cancer also fires up your immune system, which also takes energy. Under stress, your immune system produces cytokines, which can speed up your metabolism and interfere with how hungry you feel.

Don’t worry if you’ve gone up or down in weight by just a few pounds. But, if you’ve lost 10 pounds or more in a short period of time and haven’t changed your diet or activity level dramatically, contact us right away. 

4. Unexplained fatigue

The tremendous amount of energy that cancer cells consume, their fast rate of replication, and the way they unsettle your normal metabolic processes may make you feel more tired than usual. If you’re getting your normal amount of sleep, but still find yourself fighting to get through your day, give us a call.

Of course, unexplained fatigue could have many other causes, including sleep apnea. However, if you’re not feeling energetic, you deserve to find out why and to get a treatment plan to restore you to health.

5. Abdominal cramps or pain

Any number of diseases and conditions can cause you to feel pain in your abdomen or experience cramping. However, if you’re a woman and experience pain and cramps outside of your menstrual period, or if you’re a man and have lower abdominal pain, contact us for an evaluation.

Regular colonoscopies reduce your risk for colon cancer by removing benign growths, called polyps, that could eventually become cancerous. Colonoscopies also identify any malignant lesions as soon as possible so they can be removed and you can start treatment. 

If you have signs of CRC, call our team right away at 432-200-9087 or reach us with our online message form to book a cancer screening or a women’s health or men’s health evaluation.

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