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Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Early Detection Is Key to Fighting Colorectal Cancer

The month of March is dedicated to colorectal cancer awareness. By learning about colorectal cancer, you are helping fight a disease that affects one out of 18 Americans.* According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States.** Because of screening tests, colorectal cancer can be caught early, increasing the survival rate for those diagnosed with the disease.

Know the Risks

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the colon or rectum. While the exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, the following risk factors may increase the chance that a person will develop this disease.

Your age

The odds of developing colorectal cancer increase after age 50. Over 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are age 50 or older.***

Family history

Having close relatives (parents, siblings or children) who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer increases your risk; therefore, earlier and more frequent screenings may be recommended by your physician.

Personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer

A polyp is a growth that develops on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some polyps may become cancerous. If you've been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the past, the disease may reoccur. Other risk factors include unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, smoking and bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease. Although some risk factors, such as your age and family history, cannot be avoided, other factors are within your control. Choosing to follow a healthy lifestyle may help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.


Watch for Symptoms

Colorectal cancer may not present symptoms in its earliest stages. However, as the cancer progresses, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Irregular bowel habits, including constipation and diarrhea
  • A constant feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
  • Rectal bleeding or bloody stools
  • Frequent stomach pains or cramps

You should consult a physician about being screened for colorectal cancer if you experience any of these symptoms.

If you or a loved one is at risk for developing colorectal cancer or exhibits symptoms of the disease, don't hesitate to discuss your concerns with a physician. With colorectal cancer, early screenings can translate into saved lives. For more information about colorectal cancer, visit the web sites below for the American Cancer Society and the Colon Cancer Alliance.

* Source: Colon Cancer Alliance

** Source: The American Cancer Society

*** Source: National Cancer Institute

Web sites are provided for information only. No endorsement is implied.

Frequent Screenings Could Save Your Life

Screening tests for colorectal cancer help save lives by discovering the disease early. In fact, when detected early, the five-year survival rate is 90% or greater.* Depending on your age and other risk factors, your physician may recommend one or more of the following:

Fecal occult blood test

This test determines if there is blood in the stool. If present, more testing is usually required to locate the source of the bleeding. Recommended once every year.


Flexible sigmoidoscopy

A thin, illuminated tube is used to screen the rectum and the lower section of the colon for cancer or polyps. Recommended every five years.


Double-contrast barium enema

For this test, the colon is expanded so that X-rays may be taken of the colon and rectum. Recommended every five years.



The entire colon is screened for cancer, and polyps can be removed for testing during this procedure. Recommended every 10 years.


Virtual colonoscopy

This is a newer, less-invasive procedure. However, if polyps are found, a conventional colonoscopy must be scheduled.


* Source: The American Cancer Society


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