Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer death. Colorectal cancer is equally as common among men and women. More than 90 percent of all colorectal cancers are found in people who are 50 and older. The disease is more common in men and people of African-American descent.
Crozer Health is proud to have a multidisciplinary team of board-certified colorectal surgeons, oncologists and other cancer specialists who have experienced helping men and women fight colorectal cancer.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
The following are the most common symptoms of colon or colorectal cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
People who have any of the following symptoms should check with their doctors, especially if they are over 50 years old or have a personal or family history of the disease:
- A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or gnawing stomach pain
- Decreased appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Weakness and fatigue
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
The symptoms of colorectal cancer may resemble other conditions, such as infections, hemorrhoids, and inflammatory bowel disease. It is also possible to have colon cancer and not have any symptoms. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
The good news is that, in many cases, colorectal cancer can be prevented and treated if caught early through a screening. Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a small growth called a polyp. If the polyp is found early, doctors can remove it and stop colorectal cancer before it starts.
A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows the doctor to examine the entire length of the large intestine. The procedure uses a flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope to examine your bowel and identify potential problems, such as:
- Inflamed tissue or ulcers
- Polyps or signs of colorectal cancer
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Pouches or tumors
- Narrowing of the colon
Your doctor may remove polyps or tissue samples for further tests or treat any problems while the colonoscopy is under way.
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
The FIT screening involves taking a sample of your stool at home and submitting it to a lab for testing. The test looks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of polyps and colorectal cancer. The FIT test should be performed once a year.
Your doctor may recommend other options, and you should discuss which test is right for you. The best test, ultimately, is the one that you’ll actually get done at the recommended intervals.
Who Should be Screened?
Early detection guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend colorectal screenings beginning at age 50, with a colonoscopy recommended every 10 years.
Talk to your doctor about when and how often you need a colonoscopy. You may need to start screenings earlier and schedule them more often if you have any of these colorectal cancer risk factors:
- Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps in a parent or sibling before age 60 or in two immediate relatives of any age
- Family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
- Personal history or colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease