While March is generally considered colorectal cancer awareness month, awareness of colon and rectal cancer should be year-round.
Colorectal cancer, which includes both colon cancer and rectal cancer, is the second most leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Each year over 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 people die from it. And it affects both men and women.
90% of colon cancer and rectal cancer occurs in people who are 50 years or older. While the risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age, many people are still not aware of the importance of getting screened for these cancers. But even if you’re under 50, you should be aware of colon and rectal cancer.
If you are 50 years or older, getting a screening for colorectal cancer could save your life. These screenings can find precancerous polyps (a growth on the inner surface of the colon) so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screenings may also find colorectal cancer early, which provides a better chance for a cure with cancer treatments.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Symptoms of colon and rectal cancer may include blood in or on the stool, a change in bowel habits, persistent stomach pain or aches that do not go away, on-going fatigue, or unexpected weight loss.
When You Should Get Screened
Most people should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50 and screen regularly until the age of 75. Some people who have a strong family history of colon cancer may talk with their doctor about screening at an earlier age. If more than one first-degree relative has been diagnosed with colon cancer, or a family’s genetics predisposes them to colon cancer, than earlier screenings may be suggested.
How to Screen for Colon Cancer or Rectal Cancer
There are several tests available to screen for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy screening, which is a procedure to look inside the rectum or colon for polyps, abnormal areas or cancer. This procedure is generally recommended every 10 years. High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test ( FOBT ), stool test or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which may be recommended every year. A sigmoidoscopy screening, which is procedure to look inside the rectum and the sigmoid (lower) colon for polyps, abnormal areas or cancer. This procedure may be recommended every five years.
Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Treatment Options
The treatment for colorectal cancer depends on many things, including the stage of the cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient. In general, the cancer treatment may include a surgery to remove cancer cells, chemotherapy to kill cancer cells or radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue.