Now that you’ve turned 40, it’s time to get proactive about your health. Things that you used to shrug off can no longer be ignored. You’ve now entered the high-risk age bracket for a wide range of health problems, colon cancer chief among them. With this in mind, it’s imperative that you acquaint yourself with a skilled gastroenterologist. In many instances, knowing when to see this specialized type of physician can mean the difference between life and death. So if you encounter any of the following warning signs, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your gastroenterologist.
Abnormal Defecation Schedule
If you’ve been defecating far more often or much less often than usual, schedule a consultation with your gastroenterologist. In many cases, a change in your restroom schedule isn’t indicative of anything serious. Sometimes, the problem will even go away on its own. Additionally, excessive defecation is often a telltale sign of a cumbersome but manageable condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. While inconvenient, these conditions can often be controlled through a combination of medication and stress reduction.
However, dramatically increased or decreased stool production can also be a sign of colorectal cancer – commonly known as “colon cancer”. Since this is the second most fatal cancer worldwide, it’s important to catch it in its early stages. The earlier your gastroenterologist performs a colonoscopy and detects cancer, the better your chances are of having the cancer successfully treated. So the next time you notice a change in the frequency of your defecation, place a call to your gastroenterologist posthaste.
Blood in Stool
Discovering blood in your stool is immediate cause to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist. Like changes in your defecation cycle, blood in your stool doesn’t always indicate a life-threatening affliction. While there’s a possibility that the presence of blood indicates the onset of colon cancer, there are numerous other causes for it. Internal hemorrhoids, strained bowels, IBS, Crohn’s disease and forceful wiping are all common causes of bloody stool and blood-streaked toilet paper. In addition, red foods like tomatoes, bell peppers and ketchup can sometimes create red streaks in stool, giving off the appearance of blood. In order to rule out anything serious, make sure to consult a gastroenterologist as soon as possible after discovering blood in your excrement.
Oddly Colored Stool
If your stool takes on a color other than light or dark brown, it’s time to see your gastroenterologist. White stool, for example, often indicates an obstruction to your bile duct. There are many reasons such an obstruction can occur, the most severe of which are tumors and hepatitis. Black stool can serve as an indication of bowel obstructions, rectal tearing or, in extreme cases, colon cancer. By extension, stool laced with mucus may indicate Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
As you get older, being proactive about your health becomes increasingly important. Failing to properly address early signs of serious diseases can have disastrous – and oftentimes fatal – consequences. In the quest to stay on top of prospective health problems, a skilled gastroenterologist can be one of your greatest allies.