Rates of colorectal cancer are rising among young adults. We consulted a doctor for helpful advice to get some helpful tips.

Colorectal cancer hits hard. As the third most common cancer worldwide, it’s tricky to detect early on. Symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain and tiredness seem harmless at first. But they could mean something serious is brewing.

Younger people are getting diagnosed more these days. The reasons aren’t totally clear. Probably a mix of genes, environment and lifestyle. One thing we know – catching colon cancer early makes treatment more effective.

The good news? You can take charge of your bowel health. I asked Dr. Ursina Teitelbaum, a cancer doctor focused on digestive issues, about mistakes to avoid. She shared habits she personally skips for the sake of her own bowels. Here’s what she said we should all avoid:

Tip NumberWhat I’d AvoidWhy
1Ignoring family history of colon cancerI would never ignore family history of colon cancer. Knowing if close relatives had it can reveal your personal risk, since genetics play a major role. Ask relatives about their diagnoses to assess your own screening needs.
2Skipping or delaying colonoscopies and screening testsI’d never skip or delay colonoscopies or other screening tests, especially starting at age 45. Cases in young adults are rising, making early screening vital. Get checked regularly, even without symptoms or family history.
3Dismissing odd symptomsI wouldn’t dismiss odd symptoms like changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bloody stool, diarrhea, or fatigue. Many younger patients overlook these signs. Listen to your body and see a doctor if worried. Be persistent.
4Underestimating the importance of living healthyI wouldn’t underestimate living healthy. Quit smoking, limit alcohol and processed foods, stay active, and eat more fruits, veggies and fiber. These lifestyle factors significantly impact colon cancer risk.
5Avoiding talking about poop openlyI’d never avoid talking about poop openly. Irregular bowels or pencil-thin stools can indicate cancer. Discussing poop destigmatizes it, helping us know when things seem abnormal. Poop reveals health status, so speak up!

1. Why I Always Pay Attention to My Family History

Always Pay Attention to My Family History

Family health clues matter. Up to 1 in 3 people diagnosed with bowel cancer have a family history. Cancer clusters in families for a few reasons: genetics, similar environments, or both, says the American Cancer Society.

Your family’s past directly affects your personal colon cancer risk. So I’d never brush off my family history. Dr. Teitelbaum suggests asking parents, siblings and other relatives if any family, like grandparents, cousins or aunts/uncles, had bowel cancer.

Knowing a close relative had colon cancer means you’ll likely start screening sooner. As Dr. Teitelbaum said, “Your colon health depends on your genes.” Don’t ignore what your genetics are telling you.

2. Never Missing or Delaying Colonoscopies and Screening Tests

Never Missing or Delaying Colonoscopies and Screening Tests

Colon check-ups matter. Bowel cancer rates have rapidly risen in young people. Though still rare, affecting under 1%, the spike makes early screening key.

That’s why the U.S. Preventive Task Force issued new guidelines in 2021. Now all adults should start colonoscopy or stool screening at 45.

Regular scopes are especially important if you have inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. Those up your colon cancer risk. But even healthy folks with no family history can get it.

As Dr. Teitelbaum said: “No matter your lifestyle, at a certain age you need screening.” It’s the best way to catch colon cancer early when it’s most treatable. Don’t miss or delay your colon check-ups.

3. Why Ignoring Odd Symptoms Is a No-Go

Why Ignoring Odd Symptoms Is a No-Go

Any odd symptoms deserve attention. Doctors notice many younger adults don’t think their weird symptoms could signal cancer. And since they’re young, doctors may not suspect cancer either. Research confirms that this leads to late diagnoses and poorer outcomes.

The takeaway? You have to pay attention to your body, says Dr. Teitelbaum.

Watch for bowel changes – like new constipation or blood when you poop plus stomach pain. That’s worth getting checked out. Diarrhea, extreme tiredness or unexplained anemia should also prompt a doctor’s visit.

Be your own advocate. If your doctor brushes off your concerns, get a second opinion. As Dr. Teitelbaum advises: “If worried, persist.” Don’t ignore body cues trying to tell you something’s off.

4. Why I Never Underestimate the Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is powerful. Over half of colon cancers tie back to changeable lifestyle factors. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and inactivity seem to raise colon cancer risk, says the CDC.

Diet matters too. Red meats and processed foods like soda, candy and cookies link to higher risk. But veggies, fruits and whole grains may lower it.

As Dr. Teitelbaum explained: “Nothing perfectly predicts colon cancer. But globally, a healthy lifestyle can help avoid it.”

Don’t underestimate the role your habits play. Small changes add up. Prioritize nutrition, activity, sleep and stress management. A healthy lifestyle empowers your body against disease.

5. Why Talking About Poop Is a Conversation I’ll Never Avoid

Why Talking About Poop Is a Conversation I'll Never Avoid

Dr. Teitelbaum says we need to get comfy discussing bowel movements. Opening up destigmatizes this taboo topic.

An irregular poop session – pencil-thin or bloody stools – may be the sole sign of trouble. Without sharing, you can’t know if it’s abnormal.

Bringing up poop feels awkward. But we must speak up, urges Dr. Teitelbaum. As she put it: “Poop reflects your health. Talking about it could save your life.”

Don’t shy away from the potty talk. Tell your doctor what’s going on down there. Detailing your digestive situation could reveal serious health issues. This poop chat just might save your life someday.

In summary, as cases of colorectal cancer rise among young people, being proactive about prevention and early detection is crucial.

By knowing your family history, getting regular screening, paying attention to symptoms, living healthfully, and being open about bowel issues, you can maximize your chances of catching problems early or avoiding colorectal cancer altogether.

Though an uncomfortable topic, caring for your colon could extend your life. The doctor’s personal advice provides a helpful blueprint for prioritizing bowel health.

The information in this article was previously published on HuffPost.

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