Colorectal cancer, most commonly known as colon cancer, occurs when the cells in the colon or rectum grow uncontrollably. This is the large intestine, also known as the large bowel. The rectum is the passageway connecting the colon to the anus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and women. The disease is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Changes in bowel habits.
- The presence of blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
- Constipation, diarrhea, or a feeling that your bowels don’t empty completely.
- Consistent abdominal pain, aches, or cramps.
- Unknown reasons for weight loss.
- Fatigue or weakness
In the early stages of colon cancer, many people do not experience symptoms. Consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. In some cases, they may not be caused by cancer. Your doctor is the only one who can determine what is causing them.
Researchers have discovered several factors that could increase a person’s risk of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
Risk factors you can change
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- Eating certain types of foods (high in red meats and processed meats)
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
Risk factors you cannot change
- Getting older
- A personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer
- A personal history of IBD or inflammatory bowel disease
- A family history of colon cancer
- An inherited condition
- Related to your racial and ethnic background or that runs in your family
- Having Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
Unspecific factors associated with colorectal cancer
- Working night shifts
- Previous treatment for certain types of cancer
People with no symptoms can undergo a screening test to find out if they have a disease or not. While diagnostic tests are performed when a person has symptoms in order to determine the cause of the symptoms.
The key to preventing and detecting colorectal cancer is regular screening starting at age 45. It is however recommended that people at an increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, undergo screening as soon as possible.
About 7 out of 10 U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are up-to-date on their colorectal cancer screening. Several colorectal cancer screening strategies are recommended, including:
- stool tests
- flexible sigmoidoscopy
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
DO’s and DON’Ts
Making changes to your everyday lifestyle can reduce your risk of colon cancer.
- Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Moderate alcohol consumption is recommended.
- Quit smoking.
- Keep a regular exercise schedule.
- Keep a healthy weight
The key to reducing your chance of getting colorectal cancer is detecting it early. This means getting screened, making healthy lifestyle changes, and seeing your doctor if you have any symptoms. Being aware of colon cancer and its risk factors could save your life or the life of someone in your family.