Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer.
Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older.
According to the American Cancer Society, the estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2018 are:
- 97,220 new cases of colon cancer
- 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer
Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men and 1 in 24 (4.15%) for women. This risk is slightly lower in women than in men. The number of deaths from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. There are a number of likely reasons for this. One is that colorectal polyps are now being found more often by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers or are being found earlier when the disease is easier to treat. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
Colorectal cancer might not cause symptoms right away, but if it does, it may cause one or more of these symptoms:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
If you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer – that’s why it’s so important to get screened. People over age 50 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke, or have a family history of colorectal cancer. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance identified several risk factors for colorectal cancer that you can review here.
When should you get screened? Screenings are the best way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer; early detection saves lives! The Colorectal Cancer Alliance created this reference to help you know when to get colorectal cancer screenings.
|IF YOU …||THEN YOU SHOULD…|
|Are experiencing symptoms||Talk to your doctor immediately|
|Have a family history of colon cancer or polyps||Get screened at age 40 or 10 years before the age of the youngest case in your immediate family (mother, father, sister, brother)|
|Are African American||Get screened at age 45|
|Have a genetic link to colon cancer such
as Lynch Syndrome, FAP, etc.
|Talk to your doctor and get screened before age 50|
|Have a personal history of cancer||Talk to your doctor about getting screened before age 50|
|Have ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease||Talk to your doctor about getting screened before age 50|
|Are 50 years old and don’t fit into any of the above categories||Get screened!|
The New York State Cancer Services Program provides colorectal cancer screenings to men and women at no cost, who meet the eligibility requirements. For more details about eligibility and to schedule your screening, contact the Cortland and Tompkins County program at 607-758-5523! Early detection saves lives!
If you are an individual that has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and would benefit from additional support, consider attending our Colorectal Support Group.
There are many online resources to find more information about cervical cancer, screening, prevention, treatment, and support. We recommend:
- Colorectal Cancer Alliance
- American Cancer Society
- Fight Colorectal Cancer
- National Cancer Institute
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Patient Guidelines: Colon Cancer
- Michael’s Mission