Importance of colorectal cancer screening
Colorectal cancer is the third 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 2017, 136,830 people will be diagnosed and 50,310 will die from colorectal cancer.
It is recommended that people at average risk of colorectal cancer get regular screenings beginning at age 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.
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.
What is 80% by 2018?
We have committed to substantially reducing colorectal cancer as a major public health problem and are working toward the shared goal of 80% of adults aged 50 and older being regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
According to a 2015 study, if we can achieve 80% by 2018, 277,000 cases and 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths would be prevented by 2030.