What is Colorectal Cancer?

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. But what exactly is colorectal cancer?

The CDC tells us that “Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the colon or rectum, it is called colorectal cancer. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short. Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older.”

Of the cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer in the United States. But, with proper screening, you can greatly reduce your risk of death from colorectal cancer.

On screening, the CDC says, “Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.”

Guidelines for Screening

If you are aged 50 or older, get screened now. If you think you may be at higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about getting screened early.

While screening rates have increased in the U.S., not enough people are getting screened for colorectal cancer. In 2014, 65.7% of U.S. adults were up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening; 7% had been screened, but were not up-to-date; and 27.3% had never been screened.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about your risks for colorectal cancer and to schedule any screenings that may be appropriate for you. If you need to find a primary care provider, use our online Find a Doctor tool.

Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs: Colorectal cancer screening test use—United States, 2012. MMWR 2013;62(44):881–888.

Talk to your primary care provider about your risk for colorectal cancer and to learn more about available screenings at UP Health System – Marquette. If you need to find a primary care provider, use our online “Find a Doctor” tool.

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