Colon Cancer

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later.

Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.

Both men and women are at risk for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, so please get tested.

It's the Second Leading Cancer Killer.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be. If everyone aged 50 years or older had regular screening tests, at least 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. So if you are 50 or older, start getting screened now.

Screening Saves Lives

If you’re 50 or older, getting a colorectal cancer screening test could save your life. Here’s how:
Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there.

Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early. When found early, the chance of being cured is good.

Am I at High Risk?

Your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
  • You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement) 
Pains, aches, or cramps in your stomach that don’t go away.
Losing weight and you don’t know why.


Colon Cancer is Preventable, Beatable and Treatable!

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of deaths in the United States, yet it is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of non-skin cancer in men (after prostate cancer and lung cancer) and in women (after breast cancer and lung cancer). Although the rate of new colorectal cancer cases and deaths is declining in this country, more than 145,000 new cases were diagnosed and more than 49,000 people died from this disease each year over the past five years. Pennsylvania ranks ninth in the United States in the frequency of colorectal cancer.

The causes of colorectal cancer are unknown but you can take steps to lessen your risk. Eating a diet of foods that are higher in fiber and lower in fat can help reduce the risk of colon cancer when followed over a long period of time. Exercising and quitting smoking are smart moves too, but screening is paramount.

The decrease in deaths from the disease has been attributed to increase in screenings and surveillance efforts. Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a foreign growth with the potential to become cancerous. Screening tests locate polyps so they can be removed before that happens or detect colorectal cancer early when the chance of a cure is good. Approximately one out of four people over the age of fifty will have colon polyps and approximately two-thirds of those polyps are the type that could turn into cancer. By removing those polyps the risk of colon cancer are reduced. The American College of Gastroenterology considers colonoscopy the “gold standard” for colorectal screening because colonoscopy allows physicians to look directly at the entire colon and to identify suspicious growths. Colonoscopy is the only test that allows a biopsy and/or removal of a polyp at the very same time it is first identified.

The technology for colon screenings has improved in recent years for example, and there is often less discomfort then patients expect. And catching a polyp early can stop the polyp from progressing into cancer.

Screening Guidelines:

  1. It is recommended that you should have a colon screening every ten years beginning at the age fifty.
  2. Patients with one second or third degree relative with colon cancer or colon polyps are considered average risk.
  3. However, patients with one or more first degree relative (mother, father, brother or sister) with colon cancer or colon polyps are at high risk and should begin screening at age forty or ten years prior to the age that a first degree relative was diagnosed. Colonoscopy is usually repeated at an interval of three to five years for those at higher risk.
  4. Other high risk factors include personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps, inflammatory bowel disease.

Talk to Your Family Doctor About Colorectal Cancer

  1. Bleeding from your rectum when you wipe yourself after you go to the bathroom
  2. Blood in or on the bowel movements
  3. Bowel movements that are different than normal for you.
  4. Bowel movements that are skinnier than normal for you.
  5. Feeling bloated or full in the stomach and having stomach pain.
  6. Going to the bathroom more often or less often
  7. Losing weight when you are not trying to
  8. Feeling tired all the time.
  9. Vomiting


The SPU staff encourages you to talk to your family doctor about having a screening colonoscopy. Screening is crucial for colorectal cancer because so many of the symptoms don’t appear until the disease has progressed. People often think if my bowel movements are OK everything is normal. Lack of blood in the stool can also lead people to believe that everything is healthy, but blood is generally a late stage appearance in colorectal cancer. The staff here in Spu have participated in health fairs and have had information booths in the community to make more people aware of the need for screening colonoscopies. Our goal is to continue to see that death rates from colorectal cancer continue to decline.

Website for colon cancer awareness: Colon cancer alliance –