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.
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 45. 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 45 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
More information about colorectal cancer is available from Krames Patient Education.