Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S. for men and women.
If everyone age 50 or older had a regular screening colonoscopy at least 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer would be avoided.
If you’re 50 or older, here's how getting a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.
What is colorectal cancer?
Many people who have polyps or colorectal cancer don’t have any symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That’s why it’s so important to have a colonoscopy. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Blood in or on your stool
- Unexplained fatigue or weight loss
- Stomach aches, pain or cramps that don’t go away
- Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement after you are done
- Changes in bowel habits that last more than a few days (diarrhea, constipation, narrow stools)
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. You may not have cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.
Am I at risk?
Colorectal cancer occurs most often in men or women age 50 or older. The risk increases with age. If you are 50 or older, talk to your doctor about getting screened. If you have a strong family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to start screening at age 40 or younger.
Am I at a high risk?
Your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:
- You have Type 2 diabetes.
- You are African-American or of Eastern European Jewish decent.
- You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- You have inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- You have had adenomatous polyps or colon cancer in the past.
- You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.
If you think you may be at high risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about having earlier or more frequent screenings.
Lifestyle Risks Associated with Colorectal Cancer
You can’t control your family history, but here are some risk factors that you can take control of to help lower you risk of colorectal cancer.
- Heavy drinking
- Lack of exercise
- Diets high in red meat or processed meat (such as hot dogs, some lunch meats)
You can lower your risk of many cancers by eating more fruits and vegetables, being more active, controlling your weight, not smoking and limiting alcohol. We know it’s not always easy—but your health is worth it.