Besides skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. and the third leading cause of cancer death. It affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people aged 50 and older. However, African Americans are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Cancers that start in the colon (colon cancer) or the rectum (rectal cancer) are also called colorectal cancer. It often begins as a non-cancerous polyp (growth on the inner wall of the colon or rectum) or as a precancerous polyp that can turn into cancer. These polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. The two most common types of polyps are adenoma and hyperplastic polyps. Adenomatous polyps have a higher likelihood of developing cancer.
Some Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer Are:
Age: Chances of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer increase as a person ages.
Lack of Exercise: People who are not physically active have a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
Weight: People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms are often not present until the disease is more advanced. They are different for each patient. It’s important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your physician.
Change in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea, change in stool size or diameter, or mucous in the stool.
Blood in or on the stool
Abdominal discomforts such as cramps, gas pains, or bloating
Unexplained weight loss
Nausea and vomiting
Screening & Diagnostic Testing
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that people with an average risk begin colorectal screening at age 45. Further, the NCCN shows that if there is a family history of cancer or Lynch syndrome and a personal account of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, screening before the age of 45 may be recommended by your physician.
In September 2020, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reported that in the United States, the incidence of colorectal cancer in people 65 and older is dropping, but approximately 12% or 18,000 colorectal cancer cases diagnosed in 2020 will be in people under the age of 50. Therefore, the ACS changed its recommendation for regular colorectal screening to start at age 45 in May 2018. However, for people in good health, with a life expectancy of more than ten years, the ACS recommends that they continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75. After age 75 through 85, consideration for screening should include a person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.
You need to check with your insurance provider to see which screenings are covered in your plan and your costs and copays.
A complete physical exam and medical history should be completed. The exam will check for any unusual physical signs, and the medical history will help to fully understand a person’s health habits, family history, previous illnesses, and past exposure. Additional testing may include:
We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be very scary and emotional for patients and their families. Therefore, discussing any questions or concerns, you may have with your oncologist is very important. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.