Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is a disease that affects both men and women and is preventable nearly 90 percent of the time. Starting at age 50, men at women at average risk for the disease should get screened. Those with increased risk, like African-Americans who typically develop colorectal cancer at younger ages, should be screened even earlier.
Prevention techniques for colorectal and colon cancer include:
– regular screenings
– a healthy diet
– regular exercise
If detected, colorectal cancer requires surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure, sometimes in conjunction with radiation and chemotherapy. Between 80 and 90 percent of patients are restored to normal health if the cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. However, the cure rate drops to 50 percent or less when diagnosed in the later stages.
The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS), the leading professional society of colorectal surgeons, provides the following information on colorectal cancer and its screening, prevention and treatment.
- Colorectal cancer can be prevented.
- Screening for the disease can identify polyps (grape-sized growths in the colon and/or rectum) that can be removed to prevent cancer from developing.
- The magic age for screening is 50, unless you have an increased risk for the disease.
- Colorectal and colon cancer is treatable.
- Regardless of your age, know the risk factors, know the symptoms, and know your family history.
- Talk with your health professional about colorectal cancer and your own risk for the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of this disease. When symptoms appear, they are often varied, depending on the cancer’s size and location in the large intestine.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than a couple of weeks.
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool.
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain.
- Abdominal pain with a bowel movement.
- A feeling that your bowel do not evacuate completely.
- Weakness or fatigue.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Blood in your stool may be a sign of cancer, but it can also indicate other conditions. Bright red blood you notice on bathroom tissue more commonly comes from hemorrhoids or minor tears (fissures) in the anus.
- Particular foods, such as beets or red licorice, can turn your stools red. Iron supplements and some anti-diarrheal medications may make stools black. Still, it’s best to have any sign of blood or change in your stools checked promptly by your doctor because it can be a sign of something more serious.
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