Colorectal Cancer

March is colorectal cancer awareness month. Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. In most people, colorectal cancers develop slowly over a period of several years.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Some of the risk factors are:

·          Age over 50

·          Personal history of colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or family history of colon cancer

·          African American or Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews)

·          Diet high in red meat and processed meat (hot dogs and some luncheon meats)

·          Physical inactivity and obesity

·          Smoking and heavy alcohol use

·          Type 2 diabetes

Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should use one of the screening tests below:

·          Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*

·          Colonoscopy every 10 years

·          Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*

·          CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years

·          Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year

·          Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain

Colorectal cancer may cause one or more of the symptoms below. If you have any of the following you should see your doctor:

·          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 is not relieved by doing so

·          Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)

·          Cramping or abdominal (stomach area) pain

·          Weakness and fatigue

·          Unintended weight loss

Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by conditions other than colorectal cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, or inflammatory bowel disease. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Info taken from American Cancer Society website