Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States.
On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 23 for men and women combined (4.5%), however, this varies widely according to individual risk factors.
About 71% of cases arise in the colon and about 29% in the rectum.
With regular screening, colon cancer can be found early, when treatment is most effective. In many cases, screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer. And if cancer is present, earlier detection means a chance at a longer life. Generally, the more advanced colon cancer is at detection, the lower the five-year survival rates are.
Research has shown people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop colorectal cancer.
- Age over 50
- Family history of polyps
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Genetic alterations
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Personal history of cancer
- Poor diet
- Inactivity and obesity
- Cigarette smoking
Colorectal cancer first develops with few, if any, symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include:
- A change in bowel habits: Including diarrhea, constipation, a change in the consistency of your stool or finding your stools are narrower than usual
- Persistent abdominal discomfort: Such as cramps, gas, or pain and/or feeling full, bloated or that your bowel does not empty completely
- Rectal bleeding: Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
- Weakness or fatigue: Can also accompany losing weight for no known reason, nausea or vomiting
When to see a doctor
These symptoms can also be associated with many other health conditions. Only a medical professional can determine the cause of your symptoms.
Early signs of cancer often do not include pain. It is important not to wait before seeing a doctor. Early detection can save your life.
Remember, the most common symptom is NO symptom, which is why we call it the silent killer. If you’re 50, average risk, get screened!