Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. In 2022, it is estimated that there will be 151,030 new cases of colorectal cancer and an estimated 52,580 people will die of this disease.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the large intestine. This cancer can start in the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer begins when cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control and form a polyp. Polyps can turn into cancer. This type of cancer may also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on which area it started in.
Colorectal Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Colorectal cancer doesn't always cause symptoms right away. However, some of the symptoms or signs include:
- changes in bowel movement such as constipation or persistent diarrhea.
- blood in the stool (feces) that makes it look dark brown or black.
- bright red rectal bleeding.
- fatigue or tiredness
- unexplained weight loss
Some of these symptoms may be caused by other health conditions unrelated to colorectal cancer. However, it is important that you see your doctor right away if you have these symptoms so that they can test you and treat you if necessary.
For more information about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, click here.
Colorectal cancer screening can help prevent or detect colorectal cancer.
There are tests that can find changes in the colon and rectum before they turn into cancer; as well as they can detect colorectal cancer early.
Screening tests can detect cancer or pre-cancer even in people who do not show symptoms of disease. Getting regular screening tests is one of the most powerful tools we have to prevent colorectal cancer. From the time the first polyps appear to the time colorectal cancer develops, many years can pass. With regular screenings, like getting a colonoscopy, polyps are more likely to be found and removed before they turn into cancer.
If you have symptoms that might be from colorectal cancer, your doctor will recommend one or more screening tests. The 2 most common tests are: stool tests and colonoscopies.
Stool-based tests check your stool (feces) for signs of cancer. These tests are less invasive and easier to complete since you can complete them at home and then return them to the lab for analysis. However, stool tests should be done more often. Some of the most commonly used stool tests are: Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and the Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
A colonoscopy is a visual screening test that looks for abnormal areas in the colon and rectum. This test is done in a medical office or clinic where the medical provider uses a colonoscope. The colonoscope is a thin, tube-shaped instrument that has a light and a small camera through which the doctor can look at your colon and rectum. If a polyp is found during the colonoscopy, the doctor could be able to remove it at that time.
Your doctor might recommend a screening test that is not listed here, as several types of stool and visual screenings are currently available. All tests, stool and visual, have different risks and benefits. Not all tests are ideal for all people. Therefore, it is very important that you talk with your doctor to see which test is right for you. The most important thing is not what type of test you select, but that you get screened. Click here to learn more about the different screening tests available.
The American Cancer Society has developed guidelines for colorectal cancer screening. Click here to learn more about these guides.
When to get screened
The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45 and continue through age 75.
People aged 76 through 85, should talk to their doctor to determine if colorectal cancer screening is necessary. This decision should be based on the person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.
People over 85 do not need to get regular colorectal cancer screening.
Some people will need to get colorectal cancer screening before age 45 or get screened more often. These are people with:
- personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps.
- family history of colorectal cancer.
- personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).
- a confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome.
- a personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
Click here to learn more about screening guidelines.
If you’re age 45 or older or have any signs or symptoms, regardless of your age, talk to your doctor about getting screened for colorectal cancer.
Finding Colorectal Cancer Screening Services
Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you need help finding a colorectal cancer screening services. You may also call your local 211 line. If in Texas and in need of a screening services, you may also do a search on the 211 website: https://www.211texas.org. Just write "Colorectal Cancer Detection" on the 211 website search bar and your zip code. This will provide you with a list of screening programs in your area.
¡Salud! por la vida program resources
*Some ¡Salud! por la vida (Cheers! To life!) educational materials are currently available only in Spanish. English versions coming soon!*
Is an educational program designed for men and women aged 45 and older that provides guidance on the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer. Program materials include a personalized interactive multimedia intervention, videos, checklists, and infographics.
If you would like to receive program materials, an educational session, or you simply have a question about colorectal cancer screening email us.
The Outreach Program
Colorectal cancer can be prevented with regular screenings. Talk to your doctor about which type of colorectal cancer screening is best for you. Protect yourself against colorectal cancer.
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