With March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Lucas County Health Center would like to remind you what you need to know about the disease and its prevention.
What is colorectal cancer?
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 works best.
What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?
Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. About 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 that may 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, or a diet high in processed meats.
- Overweight and obesity.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Tobacco use.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
Overall, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened for colorectal cancer routinely, beginning at age 50.
Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms, especially early on. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.
What are the symptoms?
Colorectal polyps 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—
- Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
- Losing weight and you don’t know why.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your provider. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your provider.
What should I know about screening?
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier than 50, or more often than other people, if—
- You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- You have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your provider about—
- When to begin screening.
- Which test is right for you.
- How often to get tested.
To learn more about Lucas County Health Center’s providers or services, including colon cancer screening, visit www.lchcia.com or call LCHC Medical Clinic at (641) 774-8103 to make an appointment.
Source: CDC. Reference to specific commercial products, manufacturers, companies, or trademarks does not constitute its endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Government, Department of Health and Human Services, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention