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Understanding Colorectal Cancer

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Around 150,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2021. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US for men and women combined. The more we understand this disease, the better chance of catching it early and beating it.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer in the colon, rectum, or both. It can be diagnosed as bowel cancer, rectal cancer, or colon cancer. A majority of this type of cancer first develops as abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum. These growths can become cancerous later if they aren’t removed.

Who gets it?

The American Cancer Society estimate that about 1 in 21 men and 1 in 23 women in the United States will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. People who get a form of this cancer are typically – but definitely not always – diagnosed between the ages of 63 and 72.

Black Americans are at a 20 percent greater risk of developing colon, bowel, or rectal cancer. The devastating reality is that Black Americans are 40 percent more likely to die from it as well.

What causes colorectal cancer?

There are many causes or risk factors. Some may be connected to other health conditions and diseases resulting from long-term health disparities in different communities. Some risk factors include:

  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet
  • Diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Intestinal conditions like colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Obesity
  • Smoking or heavy alcohol use

How to recognize signs and symptoms?

There are several consistent signs that something may be wrong with a person’s bowel, colon, or rectum.

  • Regular or constant stomach discomfort including pain, gas, bloating, or cramps
  • Occasional or regular changes in bowel habits like constipation or diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in stool

When to see a doctor?

Earlier is ALWAYS better. The sooner a problem is identified the better the outcome, and that’s the same whether it is abnormal growths in the colon, or if it has become cancer. These symptoms may indicate colorectal cancer, or it can indicate a number of other health conditions that need medical attention.

However, these cancers can develop with no symptoms at all. This is why screenings and regular check-ups with your medical provider are so important. If you have any concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.

If you need an appointment, call 480-882-4545 or request an appointment online.