Colorectal Cancer: Prevention and Screening Tips

Written By: Women and Infants on March 17, 2021

Before we talk about prevention and screening – let’s answer the question: 
“What is colorectal cancer? “

Colorectal cancer (CRC), or colon cancer as it is sometimes called, presents in the colon (the large intestine or large bowel) or the rectum. In some cases, over time, abnormal growths called “polyps” form in the colon or rectum and may turn into cancer.  Therefore, it is important to get regular screenings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) screening tests can help doctors locate polyps, so they can be removed, before turning into cancer. Such screenings can also help find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective.

It is also important to note that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer death.  The American Cancer Society reports there were 149,500 new CRC cases and 52,980 deaths in 2021. Also, CRC is 20% higher in Black Americans compared to White Americans.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Early on, colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms. Getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer can save the life of someone who has polyps or cancer and does not know it.

Some symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in or on your bowel movement
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent abdominal pain
Who Is at risk for colorectal cancer?
As you get older, your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases.  About 90% of cases occur in people who are 45 or older.  Age, however, is not the only risk factor.

Risk factors include:

  • A personal family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • A genetic syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome), and inflammatory bowel disease.

Your lifestyle may also play a part in contributing to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, including:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of fruits and vegetables in your diet
  • A low-fiber, high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Alcohol and tobacco consumption
How can I reduce my risk of getting colorectal cancer? 
Screening, beginning at age 45, is the best way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. This is because almost all colorectal cancers being as precancerous polyps.  These polyps can be discovered and safely removed before ever turning into cancer. 
These polyps can exist within the colon or rectum for years, causing no symptoms, before cancer develops, which is why it is so dangerous. Catching colorectal cancer early is when treatment works best.
Colorectal cancer statistics
  • 2020 was devastating due to the global pandemic. People stayed away from hospitals and canceled regular check-ups and screenings out of fear of getting COVID-19. This caused colorectal screening rates to drop by 86% - which resulted in 32% fewer new CRC diagnoses. This deficit will lead to 4,500 more CRC deaths over the next decade.
  • Since 2005, researchers have found that race/ethnic background impact CRC risk, with Black Americans often diagnosed at advanced stages, and having the highest death rate from CRC. Current guidelines recommend that Black Americans begin receiving CRC screenings, beginning at age 45.
  • New developments in 2021 include a well-documented recent increase in early onset colorectal cancer (EOCRC), occurring under the age of 50.
When should I speak with my doctor about colorectal screening?
If you are 45 or older, or at an increased risk for CRC, you should speak with your doctor about have a screening test for colorectal cancer.

Screening tests include:

  • Stool tests
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT Coloscopy (Virtual Colonoscopy)

Schedule A Screening


Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis.  If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.