The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 5 percent, or 1 in 20 people. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States. Polyps developed in the inner wall of the large intestine often lead to colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is most effectively treated when diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
It can take years to develop signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer and those signals may not show until the disease has progressed. You should remember to report any rare physical feelings to your doctor. Often, as cancers advance, they produce some symptoms. However, these same signs can be caused by something not cancer-related.
- Weakness and fatigue
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- A change in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or narrowing of the stool, lasting for more than a few days.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
- Age—more than 90 percent of cases happen in people who are 50 years of age or older.
- Family history
- Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Diets low in fruits, vegetables and fiber
- Overweight and obesity
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol consumption
Numerous screening tests help doctors and clinicians find colorectal cancer in its early phases, when treatment outcomes greatly improve. If you are age 50 or older, the following screenings are recommended.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)—Bleeding can occur from polyps and colorectal cancers. An FOBT checks for small amounts of blood in feces (stool) that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Annual screening is advised.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)—Annual screening is advised.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (FS)—In this screening, the rectum and sigmoid colon are examined using a sigmoidoscope, which is a flexible lighted tube with a lens for viewing and a tool for tissue removal. Recommended every 5 years.
- Colonoscopy-Recommended every 10 years.
Screen for the Unseen
At various times throughout the year, and particularly during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, Centegra Health System’s Get Checked! program offers free FOBT kits to help you detect hidden blood in your stool. For more information about upcoming colon cancer screenings in McHenry, Woodstock, Crystal Lake, and Huntley, call 877-CENTEGRA.