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This is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer

A husband and wife arm-in-arm.
Blog Health Information

/ by UK HealthCare

Do you know how to prevent colorectal cancer, a disease that takes the lives of more than 50,000 Americans each year? March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to find out.

The best way to prevent the disease is to be proactive in catching potential problems early. And the best way to do that is to have yourself tested.

What causes colorectal cancer?

The disease starts when healthy cells from the innermost layer of the colon or rectum change and grow uncontrollably, forming abnormal tissue growths called polyps. These growths are usually benign, but they can eventually become cancerous if they aren’t removed in time.

Why get tested?

Screening for colorectal cancer can find the polyps that might turn cancerous, as well as cancer that’s already developed. It can take a decade for a polyp to turn cancerous.

In cases where tests catch cancer before it spreads, the five-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent; survival rates decline when the cancer has spread beyond the colon and the rectum.

Who’s at risk of getting colorectal cancer?

Age, genetics and lifestyle are all possible risk factors for colorectal cancer. The disease typically affects men and women age 50 and older, and people are more likely to have the disease if others in their family have had it. Additional risk factors include obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, high alcohol use, and a diet high in red or processed meat and low in calcium, fruits and vegetables.

Colorectal cancer signs are often ignored because the disease may start with few or no noticeable symptoms. Some observable symptoms include:

  • Change in bowel habits.
  • Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Unintentional weight loss.

Should I be screened for colorectal cancer?

Everyone should be screened for colorectal cancer from age 50 until at least age 75. For those older than 75, your doctor can help you decide when and if you should be tested.

How often a person gets screenings, and which ones should be given, depend on a person’s likelihood of getting colon cancer. Those at high risk have:

  • History of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps.
  • History of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
  • Family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome.

Those at high risk should talk with their doctor about a personalized testing schedule; they might need to be tested before age 50 and be tested more often.

Visit our blog tomorrow for a guide explaining the different colorectal cancer screening tests.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about Markey’s gastrointestinal cancer team, which provides comprehensive, personalized care for cancers including colorectal cancer.
  • With other life events keeping her busy, Claudia Hall almost skipped a routine screening for colorectal cancer. She decided to keep the appointment, and it’s a decision that saved her life. Read Claudia’s story.