Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It is equally
common in men and women. An estimated 146,970 people will be diagnosed
in 2009, and an estimated 49,920 people will die from the disease. With
recommended screening, this cancer can be prevented (by removing polyps
before they become cancerous) or detected early, when it can be more
easily and successfully treated.
Men and women age 50 and older
People who use tobacco, are obese or are sedentary
People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign
(not cancerous) colorectal polyps
People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease,
such as long standing ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer
Be physically active and exercise regularly.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Eat a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole
Consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk.
Limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats.
Don’t drink alcohol excessively.
If you are at average risk for colorectal cancer, start having regular
screening at age 50. If you are at greater risk, you may need to begin
regular screening at an earlier age. The best time to get screened is
before any symptoms appear. Use this guide to help you discuss
screening options with your health care professional. Consider one of
for tests that find pre-cancer and cancer:
Colonoscopy: Every 10
Virtual colonoscopy: Every 5 years
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years
Double-contrast barium enema: Every 5 years
for tests that mainly find cancer:
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): Every year
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Every year
Stool DNA test (sDNA): Ask your health care professional
Any abnormal result of a virtual colonoscopy or double-contrast barium
enema, as well as a positive FOBT, FIT or sDNA test, should be followed
up with a colonoscopy.
Early stages of colorectal cancer do not usually have symptoms.
Advanced disease may cause:
Rectal bleeding or blood in or on the stool
Change in bowel habits or stools that are narrower than usual
Stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty
Weight loss for no apparent reason
Surgery is the most common treatment. When the cancer has spread,
chemotherapy or radiation therapy is given before or after surgery