Possible clues: anemia, family history
[00:00:00] Host Amber Smith: Here's some expert advice from Dr. Jeffrey Albright from Upstate Medical University. What symptoms might signal colorectal cancer?
[00:00:10] Jeffrey Albright, MD: So people that experience bleeding would be one thing. Usually if somebody has a cancer or tumor that's further down, it's more likely to cause bleeding that they can see. If people have unexplained anemia. Most cancers are larger polyps that occur further up in the colon, so further away from the anal area, tend to just cause slow blood loss over the course of time.
And it's maybe anemia that gets identified by their primary doctor, that needs an explanation. Anemia for most people is not a disease, it's just a sign of something else going on, so that's something we also want to be very sensitive to.
People that have changes in their bowel function, so if they're having worsening constipation that they can't explain over the course of a few months, or if their stools are coming out narrower, or if they've got unexplained diarrhea, if they've got bowel crampiness or abdominal pain that can't be explained, those can be signs of colon cancer. They can also be signs of a number of other things, but those can be signs of colon cancer.
And then probably the other thing that we think about as well is just knowing your family history, knowing if you've got a parent who's younger who developed colon cancer, if you've got a number of different first- and second-degree relatives who have had colon or rectal cancer, then there may be some underlying issue related to your genes. There could just be some type of a predisposition to developing cancers at a younger age.
Typically, the way that we try to approach things with people that are a bit younger, especially ones under the age of 45, is, it really depends on their overall symptoms.
And we know that somebody, if they're in their 20s, and they don't have a family history of having cancer of specifically the colon or the rectum, that the likelihood of having a little bit of bleeding on the toilet paper, something like that, is unlikely to be colon cancer. But as we start to see people as they get into their 20s or 30s, or if they start having more warning signs as far as blood or changes in their bowels or pain that we can't really explain in any other way, we will often start to recommend doing a colonoscopy or some other type of study to evaluate the colon, just to make sure that we're not dealing with a young person who does have a colon cancer.
[00:02:13] Host Amber Smith: You've been listening to colorectal surgeon, Jeffrey Albright from Upstate Medical University.