Colorectal Cancer, Not COVID-19
- Chris Boardman, 60, visited his doctor when he thought he was experiencing side-effects of “long COVID,” which included aching joints, digestive problems, and flu-like symptoms. It turned out to be colorectal cancer.
- The most common signs of colon cancer include changes in stool color, bowel movements, pain in the abdomen, unexplained weight loss, and anemia.
- Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, and the second most deadly. However, many cases can be prevented through regular screenings.
Boardman tested positive for the respiratory virus in 2020, and went through the quarantine period in order to recover. However, months after quarantine he was still experiencing persistent aching joints, bowel problems, as well as flu-like symptoms such as fatigue. He initially thought he had “long COVID,” which means symptoms of the virus last longer than the standard 10 day period. In order to confirm his theory, Boardman visited his doctor, where he learned he had colorectal cancer.Read More
He went through treatment which included radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery in August 2021. In September doctors told him he was in remission. While the diagnosis was obviously shocking to Boardman, it taught him an important lesson in not being afraid to speak up when you feel something is wrong, or ask for help.
“My plea is, please don’t wait. If you have symptoms, please contact your doctor. Just go,” Boardman told Hull Daily Mail. “It’s not easy but when you have reached out you are in very safe hands with the people who are trained to help and want to help you get better.”
Colorectal Cancer: Explained
Colorectal cancer refers to any type of cancer that starts in the large bowels, such as the colon. Depending on where it begins, patients may be diagnosed with either colon cancer or rectal cancer. The disease begins when polyps grow from the inner lining of the bowel. Usually these polyps are harmless, but if left untreated, they can become cancerous.
Unlike other types of cancers, where you can spot discolorations/changes on the outside of your body, colon cancer is trickier. The cancer forms on the inside, so it’s important to recognize early signs of colon cancer and consult your doctor immediately if you feel that something is different.
- Change in your bowel movements: While there is a varying spectrum of “normal” bowel patterns, you should be on the lookout for anything that is outside of your personal normal. You should also pay attention to any change in the caliber, or size, of your stool. If your stool looks unusually thin, this may be a cause for concern.
- Change in stool color: If your stool is bright red or black, you should seek prompt medical attention. This could be indicative of a serious issue that may pertain to colon cancer.
- Pain in the abdomen: If you’re experiencing unusual pain in the abdomen region, and it’s not related to a menstrual cycle, you may want to consult with a doctor.
- Unexpected weight loss: Disregarding factors like stress and worry – which can lead to diet changes, and thus, weight loss – if you are losing weight and you don’t know why, consult your doctor.
- Anemia: Be on the lookout for increased feelings of being tired or weak; this subtle change in energy may be the result of anemia. If you suspect you may have anemia – which can be caused by iron deficiency (this is the most common type of anemia), vitamin deficiency, and more – you should consult a physician. Anemia can be one symptom of colon or colorectal cancer.
Colon Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer affecting men and women in the United States, and the second most deadly. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 104,000 new cases of colon cancer and more than 45,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2021. The good news is that colorectal cancer is often preventable with regular screenings, such as a colonoscopy. In fact, research shows that as many as one third of all colon cancer deaths could be prevented by annual screenings.
In November 2020 The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force drafted new recommended guidelines which state colon cancer screenings should begin at 45-years-old. This was in response to the increase of colon cancer diagnoses in younger adults. However, many insurance companies still do not cover the cost of screenings for those below the age of 50. In the past, the disease had predominantly been found in adults 50-years or older, but for those predisposed to get it at a younger age, these new guidelines could potentially help catch it at an earlier stage.