VIVA Health: National Colorectal Cancer Month

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 2:13 PM CDT
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Colorectal cancer often begins when abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon (large intestine or large bowel) or the rectum (the passageway that connects the colon to the anus). Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were nearly 150,000 new cases and nearly 53,000 deaths in 2021. The month of March is a great time to learn more about preventing and treating this disease.

Q: Who is at greater risk for colorectal cancer?

A: Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people who are 50 years old or older. Family history also is linked to an increased risk. Additional factors include other medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease and lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking alcohol, and high fat/calorie diets.

Q: What symptoms may indicate colorectal cancer?

A: Unfortunately, some colorectal cancers might be present without any signs or symptoms. If present, they may include:

· A change in bowel habits

· Blood in or on your stool

· Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way

· Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away

· Unexplained weight loss

Q: What types of screenings are available?

A: Screening is a critical aspect of saving lives. The slow development of polyps allows time for detection and removal at or before the development of cancer. A colonoscopy is the most recommended test. During this outpatient procedure, a physician typically uses a long, flexible scope to view the rectum and colon. Other screenings include a blood test, biopsy, X-ray, and other scans.

Q: What types of treatment options are available?

A: Treatment options will vary based on the location of the cancer, its stage, and other health concerns. The most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer is surgical removal. Other options include immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy that kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Visit /types/colorectal to learn more about prevention and treatment. If you are 45 or older or have an increased risk, talk to your doctor about screening.