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Colorectal Cancer

Patient Education at Southern Regional

Before you can launch an effective battle against colorectal cancer, it's important to understand the basics. Here you'll find some answers that will help you move forward with a solid grounding in the facts and be able to more effectively fight colorectal cancer.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Cancer of the colon or rectum is also called colorectal cancer. In the United States, it is the fourth most common cancer in men and women. Caught early, it is often curable. Symptoms can include blood in the stool, narrower stools, a change in bowel habits and general stomach discomfort. However, you may not have symptoms at first, so screening is important.

Prevention and Detection

Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these five testing schedules:

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Yearly fecal occult blood test, plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • People at increased risk (e.g., those with a family history, genetic tendency or past colon cancer) should undergo colorectal cancer screening earlier and/or more often.

Risk Factors

The following risk factors increase the chance of developing colorectal cancer.

  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • Age – Over 50 years. More than 90% of people with colorectal cancer are older than 50.
  • Genetic risk factors
  • Ethnic background – Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) are thought to have a higher rate of colorectal cancer.
  • Personal history – Personal history of colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps or chronic inflammatory bowel disease
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity – If you are very overweight, your risk of dying of colorectal cancer is increased.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes have a 30% to 40% increased chance of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking – Recent studies indicate that smokers are 30% to 40% more likely than nonsmokers to die from colorectal cancer.
  • Alcohol intake – Colorectal cancer has been linked to the heavy use of alcohol.

Treatment Options

In recent years, there have been many advances in treatments for colorectal cancer, including many minimally invasive procedures performed here, at Southern Regional, by some of the region's most advanced colorectal surgeons. There is an extensive menu of treatment choices that fight the complex mix of cells in each individual cancer.

Southern Regional provides the most advanced treatments and state-of-the-art surgical options. And we have plenty of resources to help you make informed decisions.