Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon, rectum, or anus. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, there are ways to prevent colorectal cancer, and regular screening tests can help detect it early and reduce deaths from this disease. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s learn more about this disease and what we can do to prevent it.
Get the Facts
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in the colon, rectum, or anus grow out of control. The colon is the first part of the large intestine, the rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus, and the anus is the opening of the large intestine to the outside of the body. Abnormal growths called polyps can form in the colon or rectum, and over time, some of these polyps may turn into cancer. Polyps can form in the colon years before invasive cancer develops.
Signs and Symptoms
Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms at first. However, if you experience a change in bowel habits, blood in or on your stool, diarrhea, constipation, feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way, abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away, or unexplained weight loss, talk to your doctor.
The risk of colorectal cancer increases after age 50. However, the number of new colorectal cancer cases in people younger than 50 has been increasing in the U.S. Other risk factors for colorectal cancer include inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, ovarian cancer, having had colorectal cancer or polyps in the past, and being Black.
Treatment for colon cancer usually involves surgery to remove the cancer. Depending on how advanced the cancer is, a doctor may perform other treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or immunotherapy.
The most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened for it routinely. Screening should begin by age 45 and continue regularly to age 75. Different types of screening tests include stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you and how often you should be tested.
Other Preventative Measures
In addition to getting screened, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, limiting alcohol consumption, not smoking, and knowing your family’s health history.
Coping and Support
A cancer diagnosis can be emotionally challenging. It is important to learn about your treatment options and talk to friends, family, or medical professionals for support. The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society are resources that can help you become better informed about your diagnosis and treatment options.
Call Community Health Net to schedule an appointment with a provider today: (814) 455-7222. Or click here to contact us.
Our health information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist the public to learn more about their health. Community Health Net providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.
Health Facts is a public service announcement of Community Health Net.
American Cancer Society (2020, July 30). What is Cervical Cancer? Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/what-is-cervical-cancer.html
National Cervical Cancer Coalition (2023) Understanding Cervical Cancer Prevention. Retrieved January 3, 2023 from https://www.nccc-online.org/understanding-cervical-cancer-screening/