Cancer of the colon and rectum is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 57,000 Americans will die of colorectal cancer this year.

The risk factors for developing colorectal cancer increase with age. Risk factors include inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps, and certain hereditary syndromes. A lack of regular physical activity also contributes to a person’s risk for colon cancer, but does not affect rectal cancer risk. Other factors may include a diet low in fruits and vegetables, a low-fiber and high-fat diet, obesity, alcohol consumption and tobacco use.

Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Reducing the number of deaths from colorectal cancer depends on detecting and removing precancerous colorectal polyps, as well as detecting and treating the cancer in its early stages. Most physicians recommend regular colorectal screening for all adults over 50 years of age. Recommended screening procedures and intervals are as follows:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
  • Total colon examination by colonoscopy every 5 years

Persons who are at higher risk should begin screening at a younger age and may need to be tested more frequently. Despite the availability of effective screening tests, colorectal screening remains underutilized. Since colorectal cancer often shows no symptoms in its earliest stages, proper screening is vitally important. Please talk to doctor to make sure you are receiving proper colorectal cancer screening – it could save your life. To learn more about colorectal cancer, click here.