ZocdocAnswersDoes having colitis mean that I have an increased chance of getting colon cancer?

Question

Does having colitis mean that I have an increased chance of getting colon cancer?

I'm 24 years old and my doctor has found out that I have colitis after doing a colonoscopy. He says that we can get it under control, but does having it at such a young age mean that I will have cancer later in life? Does colitis lead to colon cancer?

Answer

It sounds as though you have had some challenges with your health recently. It is a good thing that you are following through on the symptoms of your colitis and seeing a physician to help manage it. You should definitely continue to follow with your doctor, and if he or she is not a gastroenterologist, you may find that your doctor will also refer you to a GI expert. Colitis is actually a general term that refers to inflammation of the colon--this can be caused by many different things, including infections or autoimmune diseases. If the colitis is from a GI infection (many different bacteria or parasitic organisms can cause this), then treating the infection with an appropriate antibiotic should result in a resolution of your symptoms and no further cancer risk in your future. However, if you have what is called ulcerative colitis (an autoimmune disease), then you are at an increased risk of colon cancer later in life. Population studies have shown that patients with UC should be monitored for colon cancer with screening colonoscopies at earlier ages and more often than the general population. The bad news is that UC IS assocaited with increased cancer risk, but the good news is that just like any other patient, the key to colon cancer prevention is appropriate screening... and that is something you should work on with your physician to help protect your health in the future.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.