Physicians at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, are calling for people to “listen to their gut” because those who pay attention to their digestive system’s normal behavior are more likely to notice worrisome symptoms and seek medical help earlier, which helps prevent progression of the disease.
Amit Singal, MD, a gastroenterologist and an associate professor of internal medicine and clinical sciences says sometimes following up on a “gut feeling” can make the difference between life and death, especially for people with colon cancer.
When colon cancer is caught early, it’s usually easier to treat. Physicians advise that if you experience symptoms like lower belly pain or discomfort that persists, a change in the diameter of your bowel movements, black stools, or bloody bowel movements, you should not ignore them, and always follow up with your physician.
“The old saying ‘listen to your gut’ holds true when it comes to your health. If you notice differences that persist more than a week, contact your physician,” Singal said in a hospital news release. “Many conditions can cause digestive symptoms, but if it is cancer and you catch it early, you’ll have a better prognosis,” he said.
There are a series of ways to test for colon cancer, Singal said, including colonoscopy, an exam of the colon that allows physicians to remove polyps before they grow and become cancerous, or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) to detect blood in the stool.
In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new colon cancer blood test earlier this year, called Epi proColon, which may present an alternative for patients who are not at high risk for the disease, Singal added.
The American Cancer Society expects colon cancer to cause nearly 50,000 deaths in 2016. Starting from the age of 50, everyone should be screened for colon cancer, even if none of the aforementioned symptoms are present. Check your family history and ask your relatives if they had colon cancer, especially before they turned 50, Singal advised, because that might increase your risk of developing the disease.