Facts About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer is cancer of the colon or the rectum. The colon is also known as the large intestine and the rectum sits at the bottom of the colon, connecting the colon and the anus. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. For 2015, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 93,090 new cases of colon cancer and 39,610 new cases of rectal cancer.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include abnormal bowel habits (i.e. constipation, diarrhea, or a change in the consistency of your stool), rectal bleeding or bloody stool, continuous abdominal pain, the feeling of incomplete emptying of bowel, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

If you have multiple signs or symptoms indicating colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend certain tests to confirm a diagnosis. These tests include a colonoscopy which is used to view the entire colon and rectum for abnormalities, or a CT colonography (also called a virtual colonoscopy) which combines multiple CT scan images to create a detailed picture of the inside of your colon.

March is Colorectal Awareness Month
March is Colorectal Awareness Month

Stages of colon cancer

Stage I: Cancer has grown through the superficial lining of the colon or rectum but hasn’t spread beyond the colon wall or rectum.

Stage II: Cancer has grown into or through the wall of the colon or rectum but hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III: Cancer has invaded nearby lymph nodes but isn’t affecting other parts of the body yet.

Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant sites, such as other organs.

Risk factors for Colorectal Cancer

  • Age 50 and over (90% of new cases occur in people ages 50 and over)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
  • People with an immediate family member with a history of colon cancer have 2-3 times the risk of developing colon cancer
  • African-Americans have a 20% higher risk of developing colon cancer and a 45% higher mortality rate
  • Lifestyle factors – Physical inactivity, a diet low in fruits, vegetables, fiber and high in fat, being overweight or obese, alcohol and tobacco use

Colon cancer can be found early with regular screenings. With screening and early detection, colon cancer can even be prevented. If the cancer is found early enough when it is confined to the colon or rectum, over 90% of patients survive more than five years. Treatment is also most effective with early diagnosis.

Treatment for colorectal cancer includes surgery for early-stage colon cancer, surgery for invasive colon cancer, surgery for advanced cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted drug therapy.

The best way to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people start screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. Screening includes using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, a sigmoidoscopy, or a colonoscopy. Screening should continue until age 75.


David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor

View posts by David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

1 Comment

  1. Zak HinesJuly 16, 2015

    Really like the structure of this piece! It’s very easy to understand and the step by step process makes this complex illness seem much less confusing. Pieces like this I feel are key to increasing awareness of all types of cancers and providing people with the education they need to recognize the early signs of cancer and get checked prior to further spread. With any luck, this will save countless lives.

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