Every year, around 145,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. More than 50,000 people die from it.
But the good news is that colorectal cancer can be found through routine screenings long before you show any symptoms.
Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or rectal cancer, is a disease where cancer cells form in the colon or rectum. They often start as polyps, which can easily be removed if they are caught early. Getting routine screenings and adopting healthy lifestyle habits can lower your chances of getting colorectal cancer.
For years the recommended age for average-risk adults to begin to be screened for colorectal cancerwas 50. Over the last three decades, colorectal cancer survival in the United States has improved significantly, yet a growing body of research indicates a trend of higher incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer in younger adults. Based on these findings the age for screening has been lowered to 45 for average-risk adults.
"This change reflects an important step forward in early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer," says Sachin Apte, MD, MS, MBA, Huntsman Cancer Institute chief clinical officer and cancer hospital physician-in-chief. "Screening helps prevent cancer and find cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about which cancer screening is right for you."
If there a history of colorectal cancer in someone's family they should talk with their doctor about being screened 5 to 10 years before the age their family member was diagnosed.
Adults with a first-degree relative (mom, dad, brother, sister) or two or more members of extended family (aunt, uncle, grandparent) diagnosed with colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps, should talk with a genetic counselor. They can discuss family history and figure out if genetic testing is a good option.
Anyone experiencing any of the following symptoms should talk to their doctor about getting a screening:
- Blood in the stool
- A change in bowel habits that lasts more than a few days
- Rectal bleeding
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Unintended weight loss
In addition to routine screenings, colorectal cancer risk can be lowered by adopting a healthy lifestyle:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor for developing colorectal cancer. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent other health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Avoid tobacco. Tobacco products have more than 70 chemicals that can cause cancer. These chemicals travel to your lungs, into your blood and throughout your body, which raises your risk of different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.
- Be physically active. Research shows regular physical activity lowers your risk of colorectal cancer. Aim to move 3-5 minutes every hour, or get 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.
- Eat healthy by adding more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your diet.
- Limit red and processed meats.
- Decrease the amount of alcohol you drink.
For more information about colorectal cancer or any other cancer topic, please contact the Cancer Learning Center at 888-424-2100 to talk with a cancer information specialist.