March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Did you know that about 140,000 Americans get colorectal cancer every year (CDC, 2016)? March is colorectal cancer awareness month. Learn more about colorectal cancer and how to lower your risk.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer that affects the colon or rectum. You may have heard it called colon cancer for short. Sometimes growths, called polyps, develop in the colon or rectum. As time goes on, these polyps can turn into cancer. Polyps do not always have symptoms, so you could have polyps and not know it. The good news is screening tests can help find polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer at an early stage, making it easier to treat.
Who gets colorectal cancer?
Colon cancer can happen to men and women. People of all racial and ethnic groups can get colon cancer. The risk of getting colon cancer goes up with age. More than 90% of colon cancers happen to people who are 50 years old or older (CDC, 2019).
What are the symptoms?
Colon cancer does not always show symptoms. Some symptoms to look for include:
- Blood in or on your stool
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
- Unexplained weight loss
These could be caused by something that is not cancer. See your doctor if you have these symptoms.
What screening tests are available?
There are a few screening tests that can be used to find polyps or colon cancer like stool tests and colonoscopies. Each test has its pros and cons. Talk to your doctor to learn the pros and cons of each test and choose a screening test that is right for you.
When should I get screened?
Adults age 50-75 should be screened for colon cancer. Those with a higher risk of getting colon cancer should ask their doctor when they should begin screening and how often they should be tested. People who have a higher risk of getting colon cancer are those who have a family history of colorectal cancer or those with inflammatory bowel disease.
What can I do to lower my risk of colon cancer?
- If you are 50 to 75 years old, get screened regularly.
- Stay physically active.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and using tobacco.
- Keep a healthy weight.
To learn more about colon cancer, visit cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/.
Colorectal Awareness Feature. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Published March 5, 2019. Accessed January 22, 2020.
USCS Data Visualizations – CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Published 2016. Accessed January 22, 2020.