The Basics on Colorectal Cancer

Although colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, it’s a disease that receives less attention than it should. That’s why President Bill Clinton established March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in 2000.

Who is at greatest risk for colorectal cancer, and how can you best protect yourself against the disease? In honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing the basics on colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Basics

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Test Smartly Labs | The Basics on Colorectal CancerThis form of cancer occurs in the large intestine (your colon) or the rectum (the passage connecting the colon to the anus). The symptoms of colorectal cancer can vary from person to person, and sometimes no signs appear at all. When symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Chronic stomach aches or cramping
  • Bloody bowel movements
  • Sudden weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms of colorectal cancer, it’s best to see your doctor right away so that they can confirm or deny your suspicions.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Your risk for developing colorectal cancer varies greatly based on your age and family history. Here are the common risk factors:

  • Age. As you grow older, your colorectal cancer risk increases. 90% of new colorectal cancer cases and 95% of colorectal cancer deaths occur in adults 50+.  This doesn’t mean that younger populations aren’t vulnerable to colorectal cancer, though — the rates among adults 50+ have been decreasing, while rates among adults younger than 50 have increased recently.
  • Ethnicity. If you are a Jew of Eastern European descent, Native American, Alaskan Native, or an African-American adult, you are at higher risk for colorectal cancer. African-Americans in particular have a lower survival rate than other populations.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer. When you have first-degree relatives — parents, siblings, and children — who have had colorectal cancer, your risk is 2-3 times higher than someone without a family history of the disease.
  • Lifestyle factors. Factors such as obesity and alcohol and cigarette use also increase your risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowl disease.

Preventing Colorectal Cancer

Since colorectal cancer treatment is most effective when initiated in the earliest stages of the disease, catching colorectal cancer early through screenings is key. Often, early stage colorectal cancer polyps detecting in screening can be removed before they develop into fully-blown cancer. Here are a few statistics about colorectal cancer screenings:

  • 90% of people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a local stage — when it is confined to just the colon or the rectum — survive 5+ years.
  • If colorectal cancer is diagnosed at the regional stage — meaning it has moved to surrounding tissues — the five-year survival rate is 70%.
  • Once colorectal cancer spreads to more distant tissues, just 13% who are diagnosed meet the five-year survival mark.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 60% of colorectal cancer-caused deaths would be prevented with regular screening. Adults age 50+ should get screened every 5 years, while those with more colorectal cancer risk factors can consider more regular screening options.Monitor Your Health With Test Smartly Labs

Located nationwide, the wellness-certified Test Smartly Labs facilities make it easy for you to monitor your health — no appointments, doctor’s orders, or insurance needed! Our lab tests include cancer screenings so that you can stay on top of your wellness.

To learn more about our services or about colorectal cancer, contact your local Test Smartly Labs today!

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