Colorectal Cancer

As the number 2 cause of cancer fatalities for men in the U.S., it is important to know and understand the details and symptoms of colorectal cancer, before it gets too late. Fortunately, colorectal cancer is the one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, partly because it can be detected so early on in its development. Colorectal cancer is the 4th most common cancer found in both men and women.

The colon and rectum make up the large intestine, and are responsible for reabsorbing water from the intestine to produce solid waste. Colorectal cancer is any cancer that affects the lining of either the rectum or the or the colon. Most colorectal cancers begin as growths known as polyps that develop on the colon or rectum’s inner lining. Polyps that have the potential of becoming cancerous are known as adenomas, which take more than 10 years to become cancer. This is part of why colorectal cancer is so preventable, with regular testing occurring every 10 years.

Symptoms

Since colorectal cancer doesn’t produce many early symptoms, regular screening and testing is key for prevention and effective treatment. Here are some symptoms that may present, depending on which side of the colon the cancer is located:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Obstruction
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia due to chronic blood loss

Screening

CRC screening is the best way to find and eliminate colorectal cancer before it becomes serious. Here are some guidelines:

  • Start testing at age 50, with a colonoscopy every 10 years or sigmoidoscopic exam every 3 to 5 years. African Americans should start screening at 45 instead of 50.
  • If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may consider colonoscopic surveillance at more regular intervals.
  • For anyone at high or medium risk, it is best to have all polyps removed.

Testing

While the prefered method for prevention is a colonoscopy, there are other methods that are useful to detect colorectal cancer:

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)

An FIT helps detect hidden blood in the stool. This relatively new test is quite effective at detecting colorectal cancer.

CT Colonography

CT Colonography is an X-ray that searches for colon polyps and cancers. Patients that do not wish to have a colonoscopy should have this test performed every 5 years.

To learn more about colorectal cancer, please visit The American College of Gastroenterology.