Colorectal cancer — colon cancer (the longest part of the large intestine) and/or rectal cancer (the last 6- to 8-inches of the large intestine)— is typically a slow-growing cancer and therefore it is highly preventable and treatable. An estimated 1 in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but thanks to early screening tools, education and improvements in treatment techniques, there are more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
Thanks to early screening tools, education and improvements in treatment techniques, there are more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
Learning about the risk factors and signs of colon cancer and rectal cancer, as well as regular screening and follow up will help improve the outcomes for colorectal cancers in the United States.
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
- Family history, inherited syndromes
- Race: African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews are at highest risk
- Diet: Diets that are high in red and processed meats may increase your colorectal cancer risk
- Activity Level
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Age: Nearly 95 percent of all colorectal cancer cancers occur in patients 45 or older.
- History of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Type II diabetes
If you are at an increased risk for developing colon cancer or rectal cancer, talk to your physician about creating a more aggressive screening plan and follow up. Everyone is encouraged to begin regular screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. The screening tools suggested are colonoscopy (every 10 years), CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years, flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, double-contrast barium enema every 5 years. Talk to your primary care physician about creating a screening plan.
Colon Cancer Symptoms / Rectal Cancer Symptoms
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Rectal bleeding; blood in stool
- Abdominal discomfort: gas, pain
- Change in bowel habits (lasting longer than four weeks)
- Alternating between diarrhea and constipation
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- A feeling of incomplete bowel movements — tenesmus
- Stool that is narrower than normal (like a pencil) or that is differently shaped than normal
- Increase in intestinal discomfort, including cramping pain, gas, and/or bloating
- Intestinal discomfort that is not relieved by bowel movements
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.