Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum, is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Protect yourself from colorectal cancer by learning more about the disease, its symptoms, risk factors and the screenings that could save your life.
– Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
– Blood in stool, dark stool
– Constipation, diarrhea or narrowing of the stool that lasts more than a few days
– Sudden weight loss
– Abdominal pain
– Frequently feeling you need to have a bowel movement with no relief after having one
– Being over the age of 50
– A family history of colorectal cancer
– Drinking more than 3 alcoholic beverages a day
–A previous history of colorectal cancer, high-risk adenomas, ovarian cancer or inflammatory bowel disease
– An inherited genetic syndrome
– Being of African-American descent
– A sedentary lifestyle
– Type 2 diabetes
Prevention and Screenings
Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
You can negate many of the controllable risk factors of colorectal cancer and other diseases by making healthy choices in your everyday life, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and not smoking.
Consider genetic testing.
If you have a family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, you may consider working with a genetic counselor to see if you carry an inherited gene for colorectal cancer. Typically, genetic testing is done for those who have had one or more first-degree family members with colorectal cancer, especially if the family member had the disease at a young age.
Get regular screenings.
Early detection is key to surviving colorectal cancer. When discovered in its early stages, the 5-year relative survival rate for the disease is approximately 90%. Screenings can also help prevent colorectal cancer from forming by helping physicians detect pre-cancerous polyps that need to be removed. People with an average risk of colorectal cancer should begin screenings at age 45. Once you turn 75 years of age, the decision to be screened should be based on your preferences, life expectancy, overall health and the results of prior screenings. Screening options include:
– Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) conducted once a year
– Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) conducted once a year
– Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) conducted every 3 years
– Colonoscopy conducted every 10 years
– CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) conducted every 5 years
– Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) conducted every 5 years