Colorectal Cancer

The colon and the rectum—the two parts of the large intestine—are common places for cancer to occur. It is often a hidden cancer because it doesn't usually cause symptoms in its early stages.

Colon cancer affects men and women equally, usually after age 50. That's why experts recommend that adults be tested regularly for colorectal cancer after age 50. Testing is especially important for individuals who are at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer. That include those who: have had polyps (a benign growth in the colon or rectum); have a close family member with colorectal cancer; have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease; or who eat a fatty diet or smoke.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • diarrhea or constipation
  • a feeling that the bowel isn't emptying completely
  • blood in the stool
  • stools that are narrower than usual
  • frequently feeling full or bloated
  • weight loss with no known reason

There are several ways to check for hidden colorectal cancer. The most effective test is the colonoscopy. In this test, a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end is passed through the anus and up through the rectum and colon. Any precancerous polyps can be removed during the test. A sigmoidoscopy uses a similar tube, but it is able to look into only the lower portion of the colon. A third test, the fecal occult stool test, can be done at home. It checks for blood in the stool, which can be a sign of bleeding from a colorectal polyp or cancer.

 

Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these.

Colorectal Cancer Articles

Certain foods and drugs may lower risk of colon cancer

Study results looking at a link between certain drugs, supplements or dietary approaches and a lower risk of colon cancer are mixed. However, some studies do suggest an association between NSAID use and high intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber with lower colon cancer rates. More »

The best way to beat colon cancer

Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths, but the death rate has steadily dropped over the past several decades among older adults. Experts point to more colon cancer screening as the main reason. A colonoscopy continues to be the gold standard for effective screening, but there are other options for people who are not ready for a full colonoscopy, or who can’t have one because of certain health conditions. (Locked) More »

The latest thinking on colonoscopy prep

The approach to taking laxative solutions to prepare for a colonoscopy is getting a little easier. Now, instead of about 4 liters of solution, the amount is closer to 2 liters. Also, instead of a single large dose, the medicine can be taken in two doses about six to 10 hours apart, starting on the day before a colonoscopy. In some cases, a person can drink all the solution on the same day as the colonoscopy. When drinking the solution, it helps to use a straw to avoid tasting it. (Locked) More »

Is there an age limit for a colonoscopy?

Whether men age 80 and older should have a colonoscopy depends upon many factors. Yet, the most important question is whether anything found on the colonoscopy will lead to treatment that improves a person’s quality of life. (Locked) More »