It's Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Q - What Is colorectal cancer?

A- Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans get colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of a polyp changing into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is.

Q – What are the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer?

A – Symptoms include:

Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days

A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that's not relieved by having one

Rectal bleeding with bright red blood

Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark

Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain

Weakness and fatigue

Unintended weight loss

Q – Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

A- Risk increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Many lifestyle-related factors have been linked to colorectal cancer such as

Being overweight or obese

Physical inactivity

A diet that's high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats

Smoking and heavy alcohol use

Factors that you cannot change include:

A personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer

A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease

Q – Is there anything you can do to prevent colorectal cancer or help find it early?

A - Follow a healthy lifestyle – watch your weight, eat a healthy diet exercise, don't smoke and if you drink limit alcohol consumption. Know the sign and symptoms of colorectal cancer and have a screening colonoscopy to help find colorectal (colon) cancers early, when treatment is likely to work best.