You should get a colonoscopy if you have two common symptoms, even if you’re under 50: Top GI cancer doctor

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • A colon cancer doctor revealed two uncommon signs of the disease 
  • He said that having these signs could warrant getting a colonoscopy 
  • READ MORE: Is THIS what’s causing the rise of colon cancer in young people?

Doctors are warning people under 50 to be on the lookout for two symptoms — amid an unprecedented rise in colon cancers in young patients.

Dr James Cleary, a gastroenterogist and oncologist, said fatigue and unintended weight loss could be signs of the disease which is often called a ‘silent killer’.

He advised that people get a colonoscopy if they suffer the symptoms – and not to be put off by age.

Colon cancer can grow and spread for years without being detected because the symptoms are dismissed as other things.

But cases are expected to double in people under 50 by the end of the decade – and by that point, it will be the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. 

Doctors have warned that if you have anemia and unintended weight loss, you should get a colonoscopy to check for colorectal cancer

Data from JAMA Surgery showed that colon cancer is expected to rise by 90 percent in people ages 20 to 34 by the year 2030. Doctors are not sure what is driving the mystery rise

Data from JAMA Surgery showed that colon cancer is expected to rise by 90 percent in people ages 20 to 34 by the year 2030. Doctors are not sure what is driving the mystery rise

Doctors are still working to unravel the cause of this mystery epidemic, though unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, and alcohol consumption have often been blamed. 

Gastroenterogists have now said that despite colon cancer screening not being recommended until age 45, young people with symptoms like anemia and unintended weight loss should get a colonoscopy anyway. 

Dr Cleary, from Dana-Farber Cancer Insitute in Boston, told Business Insider: ‘If you’re having one symptom, you should think about getting a colonoscopy, but if you’re having two of these, statistically speaking, your chances are higher, and you really should go get a colonoscopy.’  

A colonoscopy is a test where a doctor inserts a flexible tube with a camera on the end into the rectum. 

The exam is meant to look for colon changes like inflammation and growths called polyps, which are clumps of cells forming along the colon lining. These are usually harmless, though some can slowly develop into cancer. 

Amid concerns over the rising rate among younger adults, in 2021, the US Preventive Services Taskforce lowered the screening age from 50 to 45 years old.

One of the most startling symptoms is blood in your stool or when you wipe. Bright red blood is ‘newer’ and comes from the end of the colon, near the rectum. This can often be mistaken for hemorrhoids, particularly in young people.

That blood loss can result in iron deficiency anemia, Dr Cleary noted. Additionally, he said that bleeding can happen on a microscopic level, so patients would not be aware of it. 

Bowel cancer can cause you to have blood in your poop, a change in bowel habit, a lump inside your bowel which can cause an obstructions. Some people also suffer with weight loss a s a result of these symptoms

Bowel cancer can cause you to have blood in your poop, a change in bowel habit, a lump inside your bowel which can cause an obstructions. Some people also suffer with weight loss a s a result of these symptoms

A 2020 survey from Colorectal Cancer Alliance found that many patients with colorectal cancer symptoms were initially misdiagnosed or dismissed

A 2020 survey from Colorectal Cancer Alliance found that many patients with colorectal cancer symptoms were initially misdiagnosed or dismissed

Losing blood can lead to anemia because the body is shedding red blood cells, which contain iron.  

Iron deficiency anemia is most common in menstruating women and vegetarians, as they are less likely to get enough iron-rich foods. The condition and can lead to fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, cold hands or feet, and brittle nails, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

‘When someone is found to have iron deficiency anemia, I think the important question is always going to be “why is the person having iron deficiency anemia?”‘ Dr Cleary said. 

‘And if you really can’t come up with a good cause, that person really should undergo a colonoscopy.’

Unintended weight loss is another sign that you may be in need of a colonoscopy, Dr Cleary said. This is because colon cancer can lead to changes in bowel habits, such as increased diarrhea. 

Consistent diarrhea means that the body is digesting food too quickly to absorb calories or nutrients. Additionally, colon cancer can lead to nausea and stomach pain, reducing appetite and causing you to eat less.

Dr Cleary said that he tends to see unintentional weight loss in late-stage colon cancer. ‘It is usually pretty significant, 10 to 20 pounds over six months to a year,’ he said.

Experts have also warned that narrow stools can be a sign of cancer, as they could be due to tumors or other obstructions blocking the colon. However, more commonly, the occasional pencil-thin poop could just be a sign of constipation or a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Cancers of the colon and rectum are the third most common type in the US and the third leading cause of death in both men and women.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates about 153,000 colorectal cancer cases were detected in 2023, including 19,500 among those under 50 years old. Some 53,000 people are expected to die from the disease this year.

Experts are still unsure what is behind this epidemic, though recent studies have made strides. 

Research published earlier this month even found that patients with the KRAS mutation, which makes the cancer more aggressive, had higher levels of the bacteria fusobacterium, clostridium, and shewanella. 

The researchers noted that these bacteria can increase inflammation and cause tumors to grow faster. 

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