Colorectal (Colon) Cancer Information and Prevention
Colorectal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in either the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) or the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine).
Optima Health offers resources and programs to help prevent colorectal cancer. You can order an at-home colon cancer screening kit, and get the facts about symptoms, risk factors and prevention here.
Learn About Risk Factors and Screenings
Colorectal Cancer Overview
The colon and rectum are parts of the body’s digestive system, which removes and processes nutrients from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. Together, colon and rectal cancer are referred to as colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the 2022 estimates for colorectal cancer in the United States are:
- 106,180 new cases of colorectal cancer
- 44,850 deaths from colorectal cancer
- Both men and women are at risk
Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States.
Screening saves lives and can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Polyps and early cancer may not cause pain or symptoms, so it is important to get regular screening. Do not wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.
A common symptom of colorectal cancer is a change in bowel habits. Symptoms include:
- Diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts more than a few days
- Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Losing weight with no known reason
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50. If you are at greater risk, you may need to begin regular screening at an earlier age. The best time to get screened is before any symptoms appear. Screening options for colorectal cancer include:
- Stool Tests - Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- CT Colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
Remember that many cases of colorectal cancer can be prevented.
For more information, visit sentara.com/services/cancer/colorectalcancer.
People over the age of 50 are at the highest risk for colorectal cancer. Other risk factors may include:
- Growths (called polyps) inside the colon
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Health conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Being African American
You can reduce your risks if you:
- Are physically active and exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains
- Consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk
- Limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
At-Home Screening Program
Optima Health offers an easy and fast at-home screening program for colon health, at no cost to members—the BioIQ Fecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT) kit. The FIT kit includes detailed instructions and supplies for collecting a stool sample within just a few minutes in the comfort of your own home. A pre-addressed return envelope is also included to send your sample for analysis.
Both you and your Primary Care Provider (PCP) will be notified of the screening results via mail and/or phone. Results will indicate whether you need further testing. One in every ten members who completes a FIT test is positive and needs a follow-up colonoscopy.
By participating in the at-home screening program, members will receive a FIT kit once a year. Over 106,000 kits have been sent to Optima Health members in the past 4 years.
If you are over age 45 and would like to participate, please visit optimahealth.com/colonhealth to register. You will need to enter your Optima Health member ID number Member and your PCP’s information.
Screenings Save Lives
The U.S. Multi-Society Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening tests in tiers based on effectiveness:
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Computed tomographic colonography every five years
- FIT-fecal DNA every three years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5-10 years
- Capsule colonoscopy every five years
Screenings can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.
- If you are age 45 or older, get screened now
Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. About 90% of cases occur in people age 50 or older - the age group at greatest risk of developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at increased risk for CRC, talk to your doctor about when to begin screening. Ask which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.
Source: “Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 17 Jan. 2022, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
“Updated Colorectal Cancer Screening Recommendations.” The New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch, 11 Mar. 2020
Source: “Colorectal (Colon) Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Mar. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/screening/tests.htm
“What Are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Mar. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
More information about colorectal cancer is available from Krames Patient Education.