What is Colorectal Cancer? Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.
Screening Can Save Your Life
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women. Although this is an alarming statistic, screening for colorectal cancer can save lives. Colorectal cancer screening helps find polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum before they turn into cancer. When colorectal cancer is found early, treatment can be very effective. In fact, 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.
Be informed. Here are a few helpful tips regarding colorectal cancer from the CDC:
- If you are over the age of 50, see your doctor and get screened for colorectal cancer.
- There are several screening test options. Make an appointment and talk to your doctor about which option is right for you.
- Do not wait for symptoms to be checked—precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer do not always cause symptoms, especially early on.
- Even if you have no family history, you need to get screened for colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers occur in people with no family history of the disease.
Several tests are recommended to screen for colorectal cancer. If you are between the age of 50 and 75, get screened using one or a combination of these tests:
- The fecal immunochemical test (FIT), the guaiac fecal occult blood test (gFOBT), and the FIT–DNA test. These tests can be done at home. They look for blood or altered DNA in the stool and are recommended every year or every three years, depending on the test.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy allows the doctor to view the lower third of your colon. It is done in a doctor’s office every five years, along with the FIT done every year.
- Colonoscopy tests allow the doctor to view the entire colon and remove most polyps and some cancers. It is done in the doctor’s office every 10 years. The test is used as a follow-up if anything unusual is found using one of the other tests.
- Virtual colonoscopy uses X-rays and allows a doctor to see images of the colon on a computer screen. It is recommended every five years.
Talk to your doctor to discover which test or tests are right for you.
If you are between the age of 76 to 85, the decision to be screened should be made with a doctor, after looking at your health and screening history. If you are over the age of 85, screening is not recommended. NJPCA Publicity Toolkit 8