7 Signs Of Colon Cancer You Should Never Ignore

When Charles Griffin, Jr., began experiencing sharp pain in his side, he knew something wasn’t right. During an ER visit, the doctor noted microscopic drops of blood in his stool tests, but chalked it up to hemorrhoids or stress.

After all, Griffin was in the best shape of his life, and only 32 years old. He worked out religiously, boasted a killer six-pack, and didn’t have a family history of colon cancer. Still, he asked his primary care doctor for a colonoscopy anyway.

Because of his low risk factors, his doctor balked, and so did a specialist. Griffin had to make the request five times before the specialist relented, simply to pacify him. It turned out he had a golf-ball-sized tumor in his colon, and he was at stage IV—meaning the cancer had already spread to distant organs.

“Every day, I have to overcome my fears about a disease that ends in death more often than not at this stage,” he says. “I just tell my kids, I’m scared but I’m not going to quit.”

Colon cancer in young guys is rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chance that a 30-year-old man would develop colorectal cancer before his 40th birthday is about 7 in 10,000.

That said, the problem is growing: Colon cancer rates have increased by 11 percent over the last 10 years in people under age 50, as we reported. And like in Griffin’s case, younger people tend to be diagnosed at later stages, where the cancer is harder to cure.

When caught early, the chances of surviving colon cancer are pretty good—about 90 percent of people with localized cancer (meaning it hasn’t spread) survive at least five years, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER).

Once the cancer has spread to distant organs, the cure rate depends on what therapies are used and the extent of the cancer, according to Anton Bilchik, M.D., chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. In some cases, the five-year survival rate can be about 20 percent, SEER notes.

“We see this all the time,” says Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “That’s why people need to know the signs, and more than that, they have to be their own health advocates.”

That’s why detection is key, particularly in young guys, since standard colonoscopy screenings don’t start until age 50. Here are seven symptoms to keep in mind.


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