The story of Deborah James is going around the world right now. At just 40, the BBC presenter has end-stage colon cancer. The tumor is one of the most common forms of cancer. Nine questions help to identify signs of an increased risk.
Colon cancer affects around 61,000 people in Germany every year. Early prevention could prevent many diseases. The first signs often go unnoticed. Initially benign growths in the mucous membrane, so-called polyps, can then develop into tumors in various places in the intestine. These preliminary stages often appear about ten to 15 years before the development of colon cancer.
Doctors can detect polyps during a colon cancer screening with a colonoscopy and often remove them as a precautionary measure. With the following nine questions, you can determine whether you belong to the colon cancer risk group and should take preventive measures.
The risk of colon cancer increases with age. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the average age at diagnosis is 69 for men and 75 for women. But the first signs often appear much earlier. Doctors therefore recommend regular check-ups from the age of 50.
If you are 50 or older, your health insurance company will take care of the annual stool test. From the age of 55, doctors also recommend a colonoscopy, which you should repeat after ten years.
During a colonoscopy, the doctor examines the intestine for growths in the mucous membrane. He can usually remove these immediately, at least when it comes to the typical polyps. You can see how a colonoscopy works in this video:
Have you ever had blood in your stool? In any case, this is a warning sign and can indicate a serious illness. Be sure to clarify such a finding with your family doctor.
Complaints such as abdominal pain and constipation are comparatively harmless in most cases. But they can also indicate an intestinal disease. If the symptoms last longer, you should have the cause clarified by a doctor.
Polyps can increase the risk of colon cancer. If you have already had such benign growths removed, you should have your intestines examined by a doctor. Regular preventive and follow-up care is important in order to identify and treat recurring polyps at an early stage.
If someone in your family has already had colon cancer, you are probably at an increased risk. Doctors distinguish between hereditary and familial colon cancer.
According to the German Cancer Research Center, the risk of developing colorectal cancer is about twice as high if there is a family history. This is especially true for people whose direct relatives are affected before the age of 50. The so-called Lynch syndrome is one of the most common hereditary forms. If your family has a history of hereditary cancer, you should speak to a doctor about your personal risk and suitable preventive measures. Lynch syndrome patients over the age of 25 should have regular colonoscopies.
Intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease promote the development of cancer. Anyone who already suffers from chronic intestinal inflammation should therefore also attend regular colon cancer screenings.
The constant irritation of the intestinal mucosa can lead to the development of polyps and colon cancer. This is especially true if you have had the disease for more than ten years and it affects most of the colon.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you have a three times higher risk of colon cancer compared to people who do not have diabetes. Insulin, which is important for treatment, not only lowers blood sugar, but also promotes growth. This favors the development of tumor cells. When starting diabetes treatment, you should therefore discuss with your doctor whether a colonoscopy makes sense.
What is less well known is that smoking not only increases the likelihood of lung cancer, but also increases the risk of other forms of cancer. According to studies, long-term nicotine consumption can damage the intestinal cells. But even occasional smoking increases the probability, so you should definitely avoid cigarettes.
If you move too little, you have an increased risk of colon cancer. Doctors therefore recommend physical activity at least three times a week. Scientific studies have shown that just 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day reduces the risk of colon cancer. According to the World Health Organization, adequate exercise in Europe could prevent around 14 percent of cancer cases in men and around 16 percent in women.
Diet plays an important role in colorectal cancer. Because one-sided food with a lot of animal fat and red meat increases the risk of disease. Therefore, make sure you eat a balanced diet with lots of fiber from fruit and vegetables.
In addition, being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of colon cancer. With a body mass index (BMI) over 25, the risk of a colon cancer diagnosis increases enormously.
If you were able to answer all nine questions with “No”, there is no suspicion of colorectal cancer or an increased risk. However, if you were able to answer one or more questions with “yes”, you should speak to your doctor and, if necessary, have your intestines examined by a specialist.