COURIER LIFE, MARCH 6-12, 2020 31
Basic facts about colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer, which encompasses cancers
of both the colon and rectum, is not something
to take lightly.
The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
indicates that approximately 140,000 new
cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and
56,000 Americans will die from the disease this
year. Colorectal cancer is second only to lung cancer
in numbers of deaths in the United States. The
Canadian Cancer Society has found that colorectal
cancer is the third most common type of cancer
in Canada. Women and men are affected by
colorectal cancer with a nearly equal frequency.
The colon is a lower portion of the large intestines,
while the rectum is the passageway that
connects the colon to the anus. The Colorectal
Cancer Alliance says most colorectal cancers
initially develop as polyps, which are abnormal
growths. Polyps may become cancerous later on
if they are not removed. The general population
faces a lifetime risk of about 5 percent for developing
the disease, states ASCRS, while someone
with a family history of colorectal cancer has a 10
to 15 percent greater risk. For people who suffer
from ulcerative colitis, the risk for developing colorectal
cancer rises to more than 50 percent.
A persistent change in bowel habits can be a
fi rst indicator of colorectal cancer, says the Mayo
Clinic. Changes may include a change in the consistency
of stool. Rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal
discomfort, a feeling that the bowel
doesn’t empty completely, and unexplained weight
loss are other symptoms.
Age is a risk factor for colorectal cancer, so
doctors typically recommend that screenings
begin around age 50. A colonoscopy is generally
used to see the lining of the colon to look for the
presence of polyps. Those with a family history or
other risk factors may need earlier or more frequent
screenings. Although doctors are not sure
what causes colorectal cancer, the following are
some risk factors for the disease.
• Ethnic background, particularly being African
• Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
• Infl ammatory intestinal conditions
• Inherited genes and syndromes
• Being overweight or obese
• Being a cigarette smoker
• Using alcohol heavily
• Having had radiation therapy on the abdomen
Some of the best ways to avoid colorectal cancer
include removing polyps before they become
cancerous. A low-fat diet high in vegetable and
fruit intake, as well as regular exercise, also may
lower colorectal cancer risk.
The Mayo Clinic has been a world leader in
providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art care
for patients with cancers of the colon and rectum.
Learn more about colorectal cancer at www.mayoclinic.