What You Need to Know About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is the third most common cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States. It is also a cancer that is beatable, treatable and preventable. Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and most curable when detected at an early stage.

What is colon cancer and how does it spread?

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, also known as the colon. Most colon cancer cases derive from non-cancerous polyps, a clump of cells that form on the lining of the colon or rectum. There are two types of polyps, adenomatous polyps (adenomas) and hyperplastic or inflammatory polyps. Because adenomas sometimes change into cancer, they are labeled as pre-cancerous. Hyperplastic or inflammatory polyps are the most common polyps and do not typically turn into cancer. If a group of polyps form and contain cancer, the cells grow into the wall of the colon or rectum and spread throughout the layers of the organ. The cancer can grow in lymph vessels, blood vessels and from there, travel to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. The most common type of colon cancer are adenocarcinomas, which make up ninety-six percent of colorectal cancers. Other tumors that can form are carcinoid tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), lymphomas and sarcomas.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Changes in your bowel habits that last more than a few days
  • Abnormal stomach pain, cramping, discomfort or bloating
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Feeling that your bowel is not empty
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss

Preventing colon cancer:

Get screened

The American Cancer Society recommends that those without an increased risk of colon cancer (family history of colon cancer) begin screening at age fifty. There are six screening options: stool testing, colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, CT colonography and guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT). Testing is key to prevention. Be sure to connect with your provider to find the best option for you.

Fuel your body correctly

Eating healthy does wonders for the body, including your colon. A diet consisting of more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and less red and processed meat reduces your risk of developing colon cancer. 

Stop smoking

Smokers have a higher risk of developing and dying from colon cancer. Quit today to lower your risk.

Watch your weight

Being overweight is a major risk factor for colon cancer and other types of cancers, such as breast, kidney, esophagus and pancreas. The American Cancer Society attributes 8 percent of all cancers to obesity. Watch your weight by staying active and eating right.

There is never a wrong time to have a conversation about your colon health. To schedule your preventive care exam or colon cancer screening, please call 505-727-7833.