Brian J. Van der Linden, MD, is a board-certified gastroenterologist at LewisGale Medical Center.

Salem, VA (March 26, 2018) – A local physician is encouraging people to know the risk factors and warning signs associated with colorectal cancer, and to get screened as part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Brian J. Van der Linden, MD, is a board-certified gastroenterologist at LewisGale Medical Center. He wants people to know that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the U.S.

“People 50 or older with average risk should be screened for colorectal cancer,” Dr. Van der Linden explains. “Early detection saves lives. That’s because the most common symptom of colon cancer is no symptom at all, which is one reason it’s called ‘the silent killer.’

Treatment for colon cancer is most effective when the cancer is found early, as evidenced by the fact that five-year survival rates decrease in conjunction with how advanced the disease is when it’s detected.”

While there are several screening options for colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy is the most common and effective procedure for detecting polyps and evidence of cancer. During the procedure, a gastroenterologist uses a scope to look inside the colon for polyps. If any are detected, they’re removed during the procedure and sent to a lab for closer examination. 

A troubling, somewhat recent trend associated with the disease is the rise in young-onset colorectal cancer, with 10 percent of new cases being found in people under age 50.

“Even young people with certain risk factors face increased odds of developing colorectal cancer and shouldn’t wait until age 50 for a screening,” Dr. Van der Linden says. “Risk factors include having a family history of polyps or colon cancer, having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, a personal history of cancer, cigarette smoking, or a sedentary lifestyle.”

Colorectal cancer symptoms include a change in bowel habits – including diarrhea or constipation – frequent abdominal discomfort, rectal bleeding, or weakness, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

“Simply put, colorectal cancer screening saves lives,” Dr. Van der Linden says.