olorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Almost 150,000 men and women a year are estimated to have colorectal cancer, and as many as 55,000 die from it.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers since it typically develops from polyps that can be detected and removed before they become cancerous.
- Get regular screening tests
- Exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Don't smoke, and don't drink alcohol excessively.
- Men and women age 50 and older
- People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
- People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
- People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer
- People who use tobacco
- People who are obese or sedentary
In the early stages of colorectal cancer, there may not be any symptoms. Later, these symptoms may appear:
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in or on the stool (bright red)
- Change in bowel habits
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
- Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Frequent gas pains
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Constant tiredness
Men and women at average risk should begin regular screening at age 50. If you are at greater risk, you may need to begin regular colorectal cancer screening at an earlier age. There are many options for screening:
- Have a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) annually
- Have a sigmoidoscopy every five years, a colonoscopy or double contrast barium enema every five to 10 years. Have all non-cancerous polyps removed to help prevent colorectal cancer before it starts.
- Have a digital rectal exam every five to 10 years at the time of each screening sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or barium enema.
- If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, benign colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, or breast, ovarian or endometrial cancer, talk to your health care professional about earlier and more frequent screening.
There are many treatment options available. If diagnosed with colorectal cancer, please talk with your oncology team about which is best for you.
- Surgery is the most common treatment.
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is given before or after surgery to most patients with colorectal cancer that has spread.