Colorectal Cancer Screenings Save Lives
Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short.
Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.
Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Other risk factors include having—
- Inflammatory bowel disease–such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
- A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
Lifestyle factors which can contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include—
- Lack of regular physical activity.
- A diet low in fruit and vegetables.
- A low-fiber and high-fat diet.
- Overweight and obesity.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Tobacco use.
Colorectal polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer if not removed) and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.
If you have symptoms, they may include—
- A change in bowel habits.
- Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way.
- Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
- Weight loss and you don’t know why.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that taking low-dose aspirin can help prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in some adults, depending on age and risk factors. For more information, download Aspirin Use for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Colorectal Cancer: Consumer Guide. Some studies suggest that people may reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco. For more information, download Aspirin Use to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease and Colorectal Cancer: Preventive Medication.external icon
Regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommendsexternal icon that adults age 45 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The Task Force recommends that adults age 76 to 85 talk to their doctor about screening.
On a separate note, it is important to point out that Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in our nation; but, a few healthy lifestyle choices could change this. First, eating normally proportioned helpings of nutritious foods including at least five fruits and vegetables a day can lower weight and reduce heart disease and diabetes. Second, exercising about 30 minutes per day can lower blood pressure. Third, avoiding the use of tobacco products can reduce several types of cancer. Finally, making sure you get your needed preventive screenings can detect diseases early and greatly increase your chances for a positive health outcomes, while receiving your recommended vaccinations can prevent acquiring disease in the first place.
Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)