Colorectal Cancer: The No. 2 Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths


More than 135,000 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017. As one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, it’s important to understand your personal risk factors and recognize symptoms early. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths with more than 50,000 deaths estimated in 2017.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colon cancer and rectal cancer are so similar that they are often both referred to as colorectal cancer. The difference depends on whether the cancer originates in the colon or rectum, both of which make up the intestines. Colorectal cancer occurs when there is an abnormal cell growth in the inner lining of the intestine wall.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of colorectal cancer are not usually present until the disease progresses into a more advanced stage. Many of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, but it’s important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible to determine if they are being caused by a more serious condition.

Common Symptoms:

  • Diarrhea for more than a few days
  • Constipation for more than a few days
  • Change in bowel habits for more than a few days
  • Unusual stool (thin or slimy)
  • Blood in stool
  • Feeling like your bowel won’t completely empty
  • Persistent belly pain
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

Am I at risk?

Since you may not notice symptoms until the cancer has spread, it’s important to understand your personal risk for colorectal cancer.

Beginning at age 50, men and women are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer. If you have any of the following risk factors, especially family history of colorectal cancer, speak to your doctor about when to receive a screening.

Age & Gender

  • Anyone over age 50
  • Men have a slightly higher risk than women

Personal Health History

  • History of colon polyps
  • Previous diagnosis of colon cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Lynch syndrome

Race & Family History

  • African American heritage
  • Eastern European Jewish heritage
  • Immediate family member with polyps or colorectal cancer

Personal Lifestyle

  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Diet high in red meat or lunch meat

If you suspect you’re at risk, try taking the Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment. You should speak to your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician about receiving a screening or your colorectal surgeon about surgical treatment options.

 

Sources:

Colorectal Cancer: Statistics

Colorectal Cancer: Introduction  

Colorectal Cancer: Risk Factors

Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms

Colorectal Cancer: Screening    

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