A Quick Colon Cancer Fact Sheet

cancer-colonoscopy

March is observed annually as Colon Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to educating people about the disease and promoting awareness of the importance of colon cancer screening, prevention, and treatment. Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is cancer that occurs in the colon – the large intestine or large bowel, or in the rectum – the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.

We join the public awareness campaign by presenting a fact sheet below, with information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women and, when men and women are combined, the second most common cause of US cancer deaths. Every year, about 140,000 Americans – men and women – are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
  • Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there. Screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
  • Persons aged 50 years or older are encouraged to have regular screening tests, because at least 60 per cent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. Screening tests help prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed. Screening also finds this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
  • Risk increases with age. More than 90 per cent of colorectal cancers occur in people aged 50 and older.
  • Other risk factors include having:
  • Lifestyle factors may also contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. These include:
    • Lack of regular physical activity
    • Low fruit and vegetable intake
    • A low-fiber and high-fat diet
    • Overweight and obesity
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Tobacco use
  • Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:
    • Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)
    • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
    • Losing weight and you don’t know why
  • However, precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially in the beginning, so you could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. This is why screening tests are so important.
  • There are several screening test options. Talk with your doctor about which is right for you.
    • Colonoscopy (every 10 years)
    • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year.
    • Sigmoidoscopy every five years, with FOBT every three years. Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the sigmoid colon – the area of the large intestine nearest to the rectum.