Having Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Ulcerative Colitis (U.C.) or Crohn’s Disease puts you at a higher risk for developing colon cancer. Other factors that increase your risk for developing colon cancer include increased age, family history, personal history of colon polyps, and a diet low in fiber and high in fat (although this has not been definitely proven) . With proper screening for colon polyps and colon cancer, colon cancer can be discovered early. When detected early, cancer of the colon is highly treatable.
Your risk of developing colon cancer increases based upon both the extent of your U.C. or Crohn’s disease, and the length of time you have had IBD. Typically, your risk increases eight to ten years after first developing IBD. The longer you’ve had U.C. or Crohn’s disease, the higher your risk. It’s important to note that your risk remains the same whether your disease is active or in remission.
Because typical colon cancer symptoms mimic those of U.C. or Crohn’s disease — blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, cramping, fullness, alternating constipation and diarrhea, and chronic fatigue — it can be difficult to discover cancer of the colon in IBD patients based only on symptoms. Further, early cancer of the colon doesn’t typically present with symptoms, making early diagnosis without screening even more challenging.
A colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting colon cancer — and everyone should be screened beginning at age 50 using one of the available screening tools. However, those who have additional risk factors, like IBD, should speak with their Culver City, Beverly Hills or Los Angeles area doctor to discuss whether earlier colorectal screening is advised.