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Should you be screened for colon cancer?

ColonColon cancer is the growth of cancer in the large intestine. The large intestine, or colon, absorbs water and nutrients from foods. The colon then passes the solid waste to the rectum for storage before it is eliminated from the body.

Treatment for colon cancer depends on how early it is detected and if the cancer has spread.

Risk Factors

Being older than 50 increases your chance of colon cancer. Other factors that may increase your chance of colon cancer include:

  • Hereditary conditions
  • Personal history of colon cancer, rectal cancer or polyps
  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer, especially a parent, sibling or child
  • History of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diet high in meat and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Heavy alcohol intake
  • Physical inactivity

Symptoms

In most cases, there are no symptoms with colon cancer. When symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood, either bright red or black and tarry, in the stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • General abdominal discomfort, such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness and/or cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant feeling of fatigue or tiredness

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be performed. The doctor will check the rectum for lumps or abnormal areas and recommend different tests in order to identify tumors and confirm diagnosis. Tests used to identify potential colon cancers include:

Centegra Health System recommends that an adult has a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50 unless he or she is at higher risk for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about which screenings are right for you.