Colorectal Cancer: The Facts

Colorectal cancer develops in the colon and rectum. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and men in the United States.  The causes of colorectal cancer are not known, and it is not contagious. According to research, the risk factors for colorectal cancer include smoking, diet, history of cancer, excessive consumption of alcohol, among others.

Colorectal cancers grow over time, starting as benign polyps. Different types of polyps exist, including adenomatous polyps, which are pre-cancerous and inflammatory. The other type is hyperplastic polyps, which are not pre-cancerous. All polyps are monitored seriously because the benign ones indicate potential development of cancer. Since polyps are small and asymptomatic, regular screening is important.

Here are facts about colorectal cancer:

  • Colorectal cancer is preventable – With regular screening, colorectal cancer can be prevented.  Screening helps to identify polyps and remove them before they turn cancerous. It also helps to find colorectal cancer in its early stage when it can be treated effectively.
  • Lifestyle choices impact the risk of colorectal cancer – Lifestyle-related factors like obesity increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 30%. Smoking is another factor that increases the risk of developing this cancer. Other risks include heavy alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and diets in high red and processed meats.
  • It is hard to detect colorectal cancer in its early stages – Unlike other cancers, colorectal cancer is hard to detect while in its early stages because symptoms may not show. The warning signs include a change in bowel habits, diarrhea, blood in stool, constipation, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness.

Because colorectal cancer doesn’t show symptoms at earlier stages, it is advisable to have regular screening, especially for those at high risk. The people at low risk are those from 50 years of age while those at high risk include younger people with a history of inflammatory bowel disease.

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