Colorectal Cancer Screening

Importance of colorectal cancer screening

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, 145,600 people will be diagnosed and 51,020 will die from colorectal cancer.

It is recommended that people at average risk of colorectal cancer get regular screenings beginning between the ages of 45 and 50. It is recommended that screening continue to age 75; after age 75, the decision to screen is based on a person’s life expectancy, health status, other health conditions and prior screening results.

Routine screening of people age 86 or older is not recommended. It’s also recommended that people younger than age 50 with a family history of colon cancer or who have inflammatory bowel disease talk to their health care provider about when to begin screenings.

There are several different kinds of screening tests available, including colonoscopies and take-home tests. Talk to your health care provider, and together you can make the best decision on the type of screening that’s appropriate for you.

A center of excellence in rectal cancer care

OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center is recognized for its excellence by the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC) . OSF Saint Francis is a high volume center, which NAPRC has determined to be a key component in high quality treatment of rectal cancers. Among multiple surgical options, including laparoscopic and robotic, we have been performing transanal endoscopic microsurgery longer than any downstate Illinois hospital. Our multi-disciplinary team streamlines the process by collaborating to schedule all tests in a single day. This reduces the average time from diagnosis to surgical consult, and also from diagnosis to treatment, by more than two weeks, saving valuable time and reducing patient anxiety.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the colon and/or rectum. The colon and the rectum are both found in the lower part of the digestive system. They form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine (or large bowel).

The colon absorbs food and water and stores waste. The rectum is responsible for passing waste from the body.

If the cancer began in the colon, which is the first four to five feet of the large intestine, it may be referred to as colon cancer. If the cancer began in the rectum, which is the last several inches of the large intestine leading to the anus, it is called rectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer typically starts as a growth of tissue called a polyp. Colon cancer screening helps find growths in the colon that may or may not be cancer. It can be found early when it’s totally treatable.

Early and regular screening for colon cancer is not just a way to detect cancer, it can be a form of cancer prevention if polyps are discovered early before they become cancerous.

Talk to your health care provider about your screening options – it may save your life.

Risks and symptoms

Due to changes in some risk factors, such as a decline in smoking, rates of new colorectal cancer cases and deaths among adults aged 50 years or older are decreasing in the U.S. However, cases among younger adults are increasing for reasons researchers have not determined.

Family history and older age are the major risk factors for colorectal cancer. Several other factors have been associated with increased risk, too, including excessive alcohol use, obesity, being physically inactive and cigarette smoking.

People with a history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease , also have a higher risk. Some inherited conditions, such as Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis, may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Early stages of colorectal cancer often have no symptoms. Some symptoms a person may experience, however, include blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or other stool issues, unexplained weight loss, regular episodes of belly pain, nausea or vomiting.