Colorectal cancer is also known as colon cancer and is the third most common cancer in the United States. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer. It affects people in all racial and ethnic groups. It is most often found in people 50 years and older.
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the colon or rectum, located at the digestive tract’s lower end. Sometimes, there are no symptoms. You could have polyps or cancer and not know it. Doctors recommend screenings for patients over the age of 50.
Symptoms depend on the size and location of cancer.
Common Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
• Change in bowel habits
• Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)
• Change in stool consistency
• Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
• Losing weight and you don’t know why.
These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
How Do I Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer?
There are a few ways to get tested for colorectal cancer.
Stool DNA testing is a non-invasive test to check for colorectal cancer. A stool DNA test may appeal to people who want to be screened, but don’t want to undergo the usual preparation required for a colonoscopy.
A double-contrast barium enema involves putting liquid barium into the rectum and x-rays are taken. If polyps are seen on the test, a follow-up colonoscopy will be needed.
A Colonoscopy uses a small camera on the end to look at the colon and rectum. If polyps are found, they may be removed during the test. You are sedated during the test. If nothing is found, you won’t need another test for 10 years.
Regular screening is one of the most powerful ways to prevent colorectal cancer. If polyps are found during a Colonoscopy, they are usually removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
If you’re 50 or older, talk to your doctor about which screening test is right for you. People at higher risk because of family history may need to start screening earlier.
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Colorectal cancer treatment depends on the size, location, and how far cancer has spread. Common treatments include surgery to remove cancer, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.