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Published on March 09, 2009

Finding Colorectal Cancer

March 09, 2009

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. In its earliest stages, colorectal cancer often has no symptoms. Because it is a "silent disease," routine screenings are essential. In many cases, screening tests can find colorectal cancer at an early stage, greatly increasing a person’s chance of survival.

American Cancer Society (ACS) Screening Guidelines

Beginning at age 50, men and women who are at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have 1 of the 5 screening options listed above. The ACS screening guidelines are recommended for all people ages 50 and older that have no symptoms and are at average risk for developing colorectal cancer. Those at higher risk should begin screening at an earlier age and undergo more frequent screenings. High-risk individuals are those with a genetic predisposition for colorectal cancer, a personal or family history of the disease, certain lifestyle behaviors (i.e., poor diet, inactivity, and obesity), and/or inflammatory bowel disease. High-risk individuals should consult their physician to determine an appropriate screening schedule.

Anyone experiencing the following symptoms of colorectal cancer should see their doctor:

  • change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea and constipation, lasting more than a few days 
  • blood in the stool 
  • stools that are narrower than usual 
  • frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps 
  • feeling that the bowel does not empty completely 
  • decreased appetite 
  • constant tiredness 
  • unexplained weight loss 

These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer. Do not hesitate to contact your physician to determine the exact cause.

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