What You Need To Know About Colorectal Cancer


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, and the American Cancer Society estimates that almost 150,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2020. Despite its growing prevalence, many people remain unaware of ways to monitor their risk.

Are men more likely than women to develop colorectal cancer?

Men have a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer than women. Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups.

Is colorectal cancer serious?

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women (excluding skin cancers).

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Most people with early colorectal cancer don’t have symptoms. But if you have any of the following, see a health care provider:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
  • Cramping or belly pain
  • Weakness and extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better with rest
  • Unintended weight loss

Are there lifestyle choices, like alcohol use, exercise, and smoking, that have an impact on colorectal cancer risk?

Colorectal cancer has been linked to the heavy use of alcohol. If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer. Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colorectal cancer.

Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

Regular colorectal cancer screening and managing risk factors that you can control, like diet, weight, and physical activity can help prevent colorectal cancer.

When should I get screened for colorectal cancer?

For people at average risk of colon and rectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends starting regular screening at age 45. If you are at a high risk of colon cancer based on family history or other factors, you may need to start testing before age 45.

At what age can you stop getting screened for colorectal cancer?

Regular screening is recommended for adults ages 45 to 75. If you are between 76 and 85, ask your doctor if you should be screened. People over 85 no longer need screening.

Is a colonoscopy the only test used to screen for colorectal cancer in people who have no symptoms?

There are many tests that can look for colorectal cancer. Screening can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam, like a colonoscopy). Any abnormality found on a stool-based exam should be followed up on with a colonoscopy.

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