Colorectal Cancer: What to Look For

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S.  There is strong scientific evidence that screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 saves lives!

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum.  The colon is the large intestine or large bowel.  The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.

Screening saves lives!

      If you are 50 or older, getting a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.  Screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. 

 How screening works.

·         Colorectal cancer usually starts from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum.  A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there.

·         Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer.

·         Screening tests also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

 Are you at risk?

Your risk for developing colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:

·         You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.

·         You have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.

·         You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer. 

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

People who have polyps or colorectal cancer don’t always have symptoms.  A person could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not even know it.  If there are symptoms, they may include:

·         Blood in or on your bowel movement.

·         Pains, aches, or cramps in your stomach that don’t go away.

·         Losing weight when you’re not trying to.

What screening tests are available?

·         Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)

·         Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

·         FIT-DNA test (or stool DNA test)

·         Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flex sig)

·         Colonoscopy

·         CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)


There is no single best test for any person.  Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Together you can decide what tests are right for you and how often they should be done.