What do screen legend Audrey Hepburn, comedian Milton Berle and Peanuts creator Charles Schultz have in common? Apart from lives that brought smiles to millions, they all share the sad distinction of having lost a battle with colorectal cancer.
At Piedmont Colorectal Associates, we know that this virulent disease strikes rich and poor, the famous and the unknown. But there is one group that has a fighting chance against it — adults who educate themselves about the disease and make time for routine screening, ideally with a colonoscopy every 10 years.
A Silent Danger
The reason colorectal cancer is the third-most deadly cancer in the U.S. is not just our low-fiber, high-red-meat diets and sedentary lifestyles. The prime cause is that cancer of the colon progresses silently, without many noticeable symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage.
Besides the regular screening which is so vital, it is important to stay alert for any sign that your intestinal health is changing. The earlier the doctor can diagnose and treat the disease, the better the chance of survival, and the fewer the complications for those who do survive.
If you feel you are experiencing an early symptom, do not ignore it. It may not necessarily be bad news. Many other conditions produce symptoms that mimic colorectal cancer’s red flags, including inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and infection.
Contact the experienced doctors of Piedmont Colorectal Associates in the Atlanta area if you notice any of the following:
Changes in Bowels
Bleeding is a well-known indicator. Red coloring in the stool may be caused by hemorrhoids, certain foods such as beets, or the presence of colorectal cancer, which may produce dark red (often tar-like) or bright red blood in the stool.
Other signs to look for include changes in the frequency, physical consistency and shape of the stools. Watery or suddenly narrow stools are a concern if they persist for several days. Other indicators include constipation, diarrhea or the feeling that you need to evacuate the bowels even though the intestines are not full.
Changes in your body can be a clue that colorectal cancer has advanced beyond an early stage. Some of these warning signs are similar to what patients experience with other types of cancer. Worrisome signs include sudden weight loss, chronic fatigue, and even shortness of breath. These can be indicators that your body and immune system are diverting energy to combat metastasizing cancer cells.
You should also carefully monitor abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, nausea and any loss of appetite. Many of these issues are caused by temporary digestive problems, but should not be ignored if they linger.
For more information on preventing colorectal cancer, or to schedule a personal consultation in Atlanta or Stockbridge with one of our experienced doctors, please contact Piedmont Colorectal Associates today.