Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer has the third highest rate of cancer deaths in the U.S. It affects both men and women. Colorectal cancer typically develops from precancerous growths in the colon or rectum. Having a colonoscopy on a regular basis can detect abnormal growths so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. The test can also detect colorectal cancer early, when it is highly curable.

Risk Factors

You can’t control some risk factors, like your age, family history, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease. You can control other risk factors, such as

  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity (having too much fat around the waist)
  • Smoking
  • Your diet

Signs and Symptoms of Colon or Rectal Cancer

  • Change in bowel habits or stools that are narrower than usual
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss

Colorectal Screening Guidelines

Our gastroenterologists recommend the following colorectal screening schedule:

  • Initial screening at age 50; age 40 for African Americans
  • If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, get an initial screening 10 years before the affected family member’s age at diagnosis.
    • For example, if your mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 45, have your first screening at age 35.