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Colorectal Cancer

Mar 23, 2017Health Focus

What if you knew that one of the leading causes of death was also one of the most preventable?

Among cancers that have an equal lifetime risk for both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age—more than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.

Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. But symptoms for colorectal cancer may include:

  • Aches or cramps that do not go away
  • Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

These symptoms, however, may be caused by something other than cancer. If you’re having any of these symptoms, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor and be tested, if necessary. Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer, when treatment often leads to a cure.

The American Cancer Society recommends that if you are 50 and older, you need to have a colorectal screening test and then keep getting screened regularly. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer for all people until they turn 75 years old, and for some people when they are older than 75.

Having your doctor test for blood in your stool or getting a colonoscopy can prevent up to 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths. Also, if you are younger than 50 and have an elevated risk for colorectal cancer because of a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, you should talk with your healthcare provider about which test is best for you.

If any of the above describes you or a loved one, please visit BinghamMemorial.org/family to find a family doctor and call (208) 785-4100 to schedule an appointment. This one test could save a life.

“When caught in its earliest stages, colorectal cancer can be treated very effectively. What’s more, when polyps that can turn into cancer are found and removed early, colorectal cancer can actually be prevented.”