Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. This year, more than 145,600 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 51,000 will die of the disease.
With certain types of screening, this cancer can be prevented by removing polyps (grape-like growths on the wall of the intestine) before they become cancerous. Several screening tests detect colorectal cancer early, when it can be more easily and successfully treated.
Colorectal cancer is linked to getting older. However, colorectal cancer in adults younger than 50 is on the rise. Even so, it’s seen more in people age 50 and over.
Other risk factors include having—
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include—
Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.
Symptoms, may include—
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented.
Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be more effective. Start screening at age 45 if you’re at an average risk, but if you have certain risk factors you may need to start screening sooner or get screened more often—talk to your health care professional. Continue screening to age 75 if you are in good health, with a life expectancy of 10 years or more. if you are ages 76-85, talk with your health care professional about whether to continue screening. After age 85, you should not get screened.
|Stool DNA Test (sDNA)*||Every 3 years|
|Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)*||Every year|
|High-sensitivity Fecal Occult Guaiac Test (gFOBT)*||Every year|
|Colonoscopy||Every 10 years|
|Flexible Sigmoidoscopy||Every 5 years|
|Virtual Colonoscopy*||Every 5 years|
*Follow up a positive test with a timely colonoscopy.
Research is underway to find out if changes to your diet can reduce your colorectal cancer risk. Researchers are studying the role of diet in preventing colorectal cancer, but much still needs to be understood. Generally, experts encourage eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limiting red meat and avoiding processed meat for a healthy diet.
American Cancer Society (ACS). (2019) “Cancer Facts & Figures”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2019) “What Are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2019) “What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?”