Colorectal Cancer: Get the facts, Reduce your risk, Know
Colorectal Cancer Awareness month is dedicated to increasing
attention to colorectal cancer issues. This awareness helps
to bring much-needed support and attention to a disease that is the
second leading cancer killer in the United States.
What are the risk factors for Colorectal Cancer?
It is not known what causes colorectal cancer, but there are
certain known risk factors, which increase a person's chance of
getting this disease.
Some of these risk factors are:
- Age. Your chance of having colorectal cancer
goes up after age 50.
- History of polyps. Some types of polyps
increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- History of bowel disease. Some diseases such
as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease increase the risk of
- Family History of Colorectal Cancer. If you
have close relatives who have had this cancer, your risk is
- Race. There is a higher incidence of
colorectal cancer in the African American population than in other
ethnicities. Also, African Americans have the highest death
rates from colorectal cancer.
- Diet. A diet high in fat, especially from
animal sources, can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Cancer of the colon and rectum often causes no symptoms,
especially at first. But if you experience any of the
following, please contact your doctor as these may indicate the
presence of cancer.
- Bleeding, almost always bright red, often with a bowel
movement. (This type of bleeding can often be mistaken for
- Urgency to have a bowel movement.
- Loss of control of bowel movements.
- Abdominal distention or bloating.
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea.
- Weight loss.
- Pain, which is a late symptom.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer:
Screening tests are used to look for disease in people who do
not have any symptoms. Quite often, these tests can find
colorectal cancers at an early stage and greatly improve the
chances of successful treatment. Screening tests can also
help prevent some cancers by allowing doctors to find and remove
polyps that might become cancer.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). Should
be done every year after age 50. You will need to avoid
certain foods two days prior to testing (spinach and iron
- Have a baseline study at 50 years of age unless you have prior
personal or family history of cancer, then begin at age 40.
- Documented polyps should be removed. This decreases the
incidence of developing cancer and allows the doctor to determine
if a polyp is pre-cancerous or benign.
Proper screening occurs in less than 15% of the population
compared with 80% for Breast and Prostate Cancers.
When should I be tested for Colorectal Cancer?
The American Cancer Society recommends that testing should begin
at age 50 if you have an average risk for the disease.
If you are at a high risk for the disease, talk to your
doctor about starting at an earlier age.
How do you treat Colorectal Cancer?
If someone you know has recently been diagnosed with Colorectal
Cancer, you will need to discuss potential treatment options with
your doctor, a Radiation Oncologist, and a medical
oncologist. Acceptable treatment options are: