Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Reducing Your Risk

Colorectal cancer often starts as polyps or small growths in the colon or rectum. They are common and often don’t turn into cancer. Doctors can’t tell which polyps will turn into cancer. So people over age 50 should have regular tests to find polyps and remove them.

Risk Factors

  • Being age 50 or older
  • Being overweight, especially having extra fat in the waist area
  • Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day
  • Eating a diet high in calories, protein, and fat—especially animal fat—and low in calcium
  • Having a strong family history of colon or rectal cancer (two generations, with one getting the disease before age 50)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medical history:
    • Having colorectal cancer in the past
    • Having another type of cancer, such as cancer of the ovary or cancer of the endometrium
    • Having polyps removed from your colon, especially if you had large polyps or a large number of polyps
    • Having ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease for more than 10 years
    • Having radiation therapy in your abdomen or pelvis
    • Having Type 2 diabetes
  • Race: African Americans have a higher incidence of colon cancer
  • Smoking

Symptoms

The symptoms of colorectal cancer can include:

  • A change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that your bowels are not emptying completely
  • Blood in your stool or very dark, tarry-looking stools
  • Pain in your belly (very late stage)

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor or make an appointment with The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Screening

Experts recommend routine colon cancer testing for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for colon cancer. If you are in a higher risk group, you may need testing sooner. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.

Colonoscopy (every five to 10 years, as recommended by your doctor)

  • A doctor puts a long, flexible viewing tube into your rectum and colon. The tube is linked to a video monitor similar to a TV screen. With this test, the doctor can see the entire large intestine.

Computed Tomographic Colonography

  • This test is also called a virtual colonoscopy. A computer and X-rays make a detailed picture of the colon to help the doctor look for polyps. This test may be used for people who can’t tolerate colonoscopy.

Sigmoidoscopy (every five to 10 years, as recommended by your doctor)

  • A doctor puts a flexible tube into your rectum and into the first part of your colon. This lets the doctor see the lower portion of the intestine, which is where most colon cancers grow. Doctors can remove polyps during this test also.

Stool tests (every year)

  • Several types of tests on a sample of your stool can detect signs of colorectal cancer. This may include:
    • Fecal occult blood testing to look for blood in your stool
    • Fecal immunochemical test — another way to detect signs of cancer in your stool
    • Stool DNA test to check for cell changes that indicate polyps may be present
       

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