Did you know….?
- Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in both men and women.
- Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented through screening.
- The American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk get screened for colorectal cancer starting no later than age 45.
Learn your Family’s Health History
According to the American Cancer Society, some people have certain risk factors that make them more likely to develop colorectal cancer, and to get it at an earlier age. This may mean that they should start screening earlier or get tested more often than other people.
One of these risk factors is a family history of colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps (a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum), especially in parents, siblings, or children. Nearly 1 in 3 people who develop colon or rectal cancer have other family members who have had it.
A family history of other colorectal problems can also increase risk. These include hereditary syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, also known as Lynch syndrome.
Lower Your Risk
Colorectal cancer is one of the more common cancers in the US. About 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will develop colon or rectal cancer at some point during their lifetime. But there are things you can do to help lower your risk.
- Stay at a healthy weight and avoid weight gain in adult life.
- Include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your diet and reduce red meat and processed meats.
- Be physically active.
- Avoid all forms of tobacco.
- It is best not to drink alcohol, but if you do, limit it to 1 drink a day (for women); 2 drinks per day for men.
- Have regular checkups and the recommended cancer screening tests.
Screening tests can help find cancers early when they are small and might be treated more successfully. Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a polyp – a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum – but doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it’s more advanced. (This means the cancer is bigger or it has spread from where it started.)
Colorectal cancer screening can help find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
Regular screening tests can prevent most colorectal cancers. Men and women who are 45 or older should talk to their health care providers about their risk for colorectal cancer and about getting screened for it, even if they have no symptoms. If they have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, they might need to start sooner.
If you are interested in learning about the different types of screening tests read Colorectal Cancer Screening: What are my Options? by the American Cancer Society.
Do You Know the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer symptoms often appear only after the cancer has grown or spread. That’s why it’s best to be screened before you have any symptoms. Many of the symptoms of colorectal cancer can also be caused by something that isn’t cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease.
So if you have any of these problems, it is a sign that you should go to the doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days.
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved when you go.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Blood in your stool, which may make it look dark.
- Cramping or belly pain.
- Weakness and tiredness.
- Unintended weight loss.
The American Cancer Society is leading the fight for a world without cancer by promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging cancer screenings.
Currently, many people who should be screened for colorectal cancer are not getting the recommended tests. Organizations nationwide, including the American Cancer Society, are promoting colorectal cancer awareness to increase the percentage of people getting screened for colorectal cancer. By encouraging people to get the recommended cancer screening tests and to take care of themselves with everyday lifestyle choices, they hope to lower the number of new colorectal cancer cases that will be diagnosed in the future.
To learn more about how to help prevent colorectal cancer or find it early, visit cancer.org/colon or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.