Text Alternative for Colorectal Cancer: Catching It Early

American Cancer Society // Infographics // 2018

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the US. Routine testing can help prevent colorectal cancer or find it at an early stage, when it’s smaller and easier to treat. If it’s found early, the 5-year survival rate is 90%. Many more lives could be saved by understanding colorectal cancer risks, increasing screening rates, and making lifestyle changes.

Although the 5-year, survival rate is 90% if colorectal cancer is found at the local stage, only 39% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. This is partly due to low testing rates.

Stages Of Colorectal Cancer

  • Polyp: Most colorectal cancers develop from these noncancerous growths.
  • In Situ: Cancer has formed, but is not yet growing into the colon or rectal wall.
  • Local: Cancer is growing in the colon or rectal walls; nearby tissue is unaffected.
  • Regional: Growth is through the wall of the colon or rectum; tissue or lymph nodes beyond the colon or rectal walls may also be affected.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.

Who Gets Colorectal Cancer?

Anyone can get colorectal cancer, but some people are at increased risk, as noted in the Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019.

Gender: Colorectal cancer incidence is about 46% in men and about 35% in women.

Age: Incidence and death rates for colorectal cancer increase with age. Overall, most new cases occur around the age of 50.

Race/Ethnicity: Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are highest in African American men and women; incidence rates are nearly 15% higher and mortality rates are about 6% higher than those in whites.

What Can You Do About It

Reduce your risk by managing your diet, weight, and physical activity, and by avoiding tobacco.

Diet

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
  • Limit intake of red and processed meats, fried foods and high-calorie fats.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

  • Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection.
  • Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18-25. A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight or obese.

Physical Activity

  • Increase intensity and amount of physical activity.

Lifestyle

  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Avoid alcohol.

If you're 45 or older, talk to your doctor about getting tested. If you are at increased risk or are experiencing symptoms, speak to your doctor right away.

Symptoms can include: Rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, dark- or black-colored stools, change in the shape of stool, lower stomach cramping, unnecessary urge to have a bowel movement, prolonged constipation or diarrhea, and unintentional weight loss.

Pros and Cons of Different Types of Screening Tests

Several types of screening tests can be used. Talk to your health care provider about which ones might be good options for you. No matter which test you choose, the most important thing is to get tested.

Stool Tests

Guaiac-based Fecal Occult Blood Test/Fecal Immunochemical Test: Can detect blood in stool caused by tumors or polyps. Health care provider gives patient at-home kit.

Pros:

  • No direct risk to the colorectum
  • No bowel preparation
  • Sampling done at home

Cons:

  • May miss some polyps/cancers
  • Done every year
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal

Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA): Looks for certain DNA changes from cancer or polyps cells. Health care provider has kit sent to patient.

Pros:

  • No direct risk to the colorectum
  • No bowel preparation
  • Sampling done at home

Cons:

  • May miss some polyps/cancers
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal
  • Done every 3 years

Visual Examination Tests

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Slender tube inserted through the rectum into the colon. Provides visual exam of rectum and lower part of colon.

Pros:

  • Fairly quick
  • Sedation usually not used
  • Does not require a specialist
  • Should be done every 5 years

Cons:

  • Doesn’t view upper part of colon
  • Can't see or remove all polyps
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal

Colonoscopy: Direct exam of colon and rectum. Polyps removed if present. Required for abnormal results from other tests.

Pros:

  • Can usually view entire colorectum
  • Can biopsy and remove polyps
  • Done every 10 years

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Higher risk than other tests
  • Full bowel preparation needed

CT Colonography: Detailed, cross-sectional, 2-D or 3-D views of the colon and rectum with an x-ray machine linked to a computer

Pros:

  • Fairly quick and safe
  • Can usually view entire colorectum
  • No sedation needed
  • Should be done every 5 years

Cons:

  • Still fairly new test
  • Can’t remove polyps during test
  • Full bowel preparation needed
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal

Together, we are stronger than cancer. 

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of nearly two million strong. Our mission is to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Learn More // cancer.org/colon
Detect it Early // cancer.org/colontesting
Live Healthy
 // cancer.org/nupa

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