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Colorectal Cancer - What you need to know

Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the third most common cancer. It affects both men and women and is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives.

Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—that can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.

If you are 45 years old or older and at average risk for colorectal cancer, get screened. If you think you may be at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak to your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older, plus there are other risk factors (family history of colon cancer and certain types of polyps in a parent or sibling, inflammatory disorders of the colon, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, smoking and excess alcohol intake).

What can I do to reduce my risk of colorectal cancer?

Have regular colorectal cancer screening tests and reduce the risk factors listed above.

What are the symptoms?

Colorectal cancer doesn't always have symptoms, especially early on. Symptoms may include rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, new unexplained abdominal pain, and weight loss without dieting.

What should I know about screening?

To reiterate, colorectal screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

Questions to ask your doctor?

Several screening tests can be used to find precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer. The benefits and risks of these screening methods vary. Discuss with your doctor which test is best for you and review the Colon Cancer Screening brochure linked to below.

Colon Cancer Screening (by Dr. Cohen)