March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

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, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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.

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.

An innovative way to screen for colon cancer is using Cologuard – a noninvasive colon cancer screening test that patients can use in the comfort of their own home. Cologuard must be must be prescribed and ordered by a physician, which is then delivered directly to the patient’s home. Compared to a colonoscopy, there is no bowel or dietary preparation. According to its maker, Exact Sciences, “in a 10,000 patient clinical study, Cologuard found 92% of colon cancers. It also found 69% of high-risk precancers, those most likely to develop into cancer.”

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 Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

1 Comment

  1. Elisabeth EmeryMarch 16, 2015

    133 thousand men and women are expected to become diagnosed for Colorectal Cancer this year. Kinda sad though.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to top