Understanding colon cancer

Consulting with doctor during regular screenings

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer–related deaths (link opens in new window) in the United States. It develops in the colon or rectum, usually as a small growth called a polyp. Because it can take several years for the polyp to develop into cancer, regular screening can often help prevent colorectal cancer. How? By finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous.

What are colorectal cancer symptoms?

Don’t wait for symptoms to take action . The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends screening for colorectal cancer beginning at a0067e 50 in most people. Chances of developing colorectal cancer increase a great deal after age 50. But if you are under 50, it is important to ask your doctor if you should begin getting tested earlier.

When colon cancer does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Change in bowel habits

Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems can also cause them. But if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Also, remember that early cancer does not cause pain, so it is important not to wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor. When colorectal cancer is detected early, it can have a 90 percent or better cure rate.

Amazingly, an estimated 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if men and women 50 and older were screened routinely. However, only 61 percent of this group get screened.

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