Cancer of the colon and rectum called colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States.
Colorectal cancer develops from polyps, which are grape-like growths on the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Polyps form, usually after age 50, and grow slowly over many years. Most polyps will not become cancerous, but some may. Therefore, having polyps removed is very important, because it prevents cancer from developing.
Colorectal cancer frequently begins with no symptoms at all. This is why screening is so important. However, over time, there is a number of warning signs:
•Blood in your stool (bright red, very dark maroon or black)
•A change in bowel habits, especially in the shape of your stool (narrow like a pencil)
•Cramping in your abdomen
•Frequent gas pains
•Discomfort in or the urge to move your bowels when there is no need
•Weight loss without dieting
Everyone has a risk of developing colorectal cancer. However your risk depends on several factors.
You are at average risk for colorectal cancer if you:
*Are age 50 or older and have no other risk factors
You are at increased risk for colorectal cancer if you:
*Have a personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
*Have a family history with one or more parents, brothers and/or sisters, or children or colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
*Have a family history of multiple cancers, involving the breast, ovary, uterus, and other organs
*Have a personal history of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Cohn’s disease
Other factors that increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer are:
*A diet that is low in fiber and high in fat
*A sedentary lifestyle
Screening is important for two reasons. The early stage of colorectal cancer which is when it is most curable frequently does not cause any symptoms. And, just as important, screening is the only way to find polyps. If the polyp is removed, it cannot develop into cancer.