Colorectal Cancer

Preventable, Treatable, Beatable™

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Each year, more than 136,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die of the disease.

With certain types of screening, this cancer can be prevented by removing polyps (grape-like growths on the wall of the intestine) before they become cancerous. Several screening tests detect colorectal cancer early, when it can be easily and successfully treated.

Risk Factors

You might be at an increased risk for colorectal cancer if you:

  • Are age 50 or older
  • Smoke or use tobacco
  • Are overweight or obese, especially if you carry fat around your waist
  • Are not physically active
  • Drink alcohol in excess (especially if you are a man)
  • Eat a lot of red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb, or a lot of processed meat, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs or cold cuts
  • Have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
  • Have a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease  

Symptoms

Early stages of colorectal cancer don’t usually have symptoms. Later on, people may have these symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the rectum or blood in or on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Stools that are more narrow than usual
  • General problems in the abdomen, such as bloating, fullness or cramps
  • Diarrhea, constipation or a feeling in the rectum that the bowel movement isn’t quite complete
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Being tired all the time
  • Vomiting

Prevention

  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes at least five days a week
  • Maintain a healthy weight and waist size
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman or two drinks per day if you’re a man
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are good sources of fiber
  • Eat less red meat and cut out processed meat
  • Get screened according to guidelines

Colorectal Cancer is cancer of the colon and rectum. It is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Early Detection

  • Begin getting screened at age 50. If you are older than age 75, ask your doctor if you should continue to be screened.
  • If you are a high risk, talk to your health care professional about screening earlier and more often
  • Talk to your doctor about your screening test options

Tests that find pre-cancer and cancer:

  • Colonoscopy – Every 10 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy – Every 5 years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Every 5 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema – Every 5 years

Tests that mainly detect cancer

  • Stool occult blood test (FOBT) (guaiac) – Every year
  • Stool immunochemical test (FIT) – Every year
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA) – ask your health care professiona; the FDA approved the use of the sDNA test in 2014.

An abnormal result of a virtual colonoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema, or a positive FOBT, FIT or sDNA test, should be followed up with a colonoscopy.

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Treatment Options

Surgery is the most common treatment. When the cancer has spread, chemotherapy or radiation may be given before or after surgery.

Additional Resources

Fact Sheet
Colorectal Cancer Factsheet (Eng)
Download the PDF (157kb)
Colorectal Cancer Factsheet (Spn)
Download the PDF (157kb)
Guide to Prevent Cancer
Download the Guide
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PSA Video
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