Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cancer killer of men & women in the US, following lung cancer. In 2006, there were 248 newly diagnosed cases of colorectal cancer in Chester County.

Colorectal screenings save lives by identifying and removing precancerous and cancerous polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths that are mushroom-like in appearance. They can grow where mucous membranes exist such as the lining of the colon and rectum. Most polyps are harmless but have the potential to develop into cancer over time. This is why it is so important to get screened regularly so detection can be made before the cancer advances. About 90% of people live 5 or more years when their colorectal cancer is found early through screening.

Risk Factors

  • Anyone over the age of 50
  • History of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • History of polyps and also women who have had breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
Lifestyle factors such as obesity, tobacco use and low physical activity may also be risk factors


  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Frequent gas, pains or indigestion
  • Diarrhea/Constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
These symptoms may also be associated with other ailments. If you have any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor.
Prevention and Detection
Screen For Life Campaign Listen to what stars like Terrance Howard, Jimmy Smits and Diane Keaton have to say about early screening.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is with regular screenings. Screenings should begin at age 50 unless you have multiple risk factors, then screening can start as early as age 35.
  • Colonoscopy - This exam is covered by most insurance policies. The patient must prepare for this test the night before by drinking a liquid or taking medication given by the physician to clear the bowels completely. For this exam, the patient is sedated and a thin, flexible, lighted tube is placed in the rectum. The whole length of the colon and rectum are examined. Recommended every 10 years.
  • FOBT or FIT - The Fecal Occult Blood Test and Fecal Immunochemical Test both detect blood not visible in the stool. A small stool sample is taken and the specimen is tested by a lab. Recommended yearly.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - This test is similar to a colonoscopy, but the patient is not sedated and only the rectum and lower third of the colon are examined. Recommended every 5 years.
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema – This procedure requires the same preparation as a colonoscopy, but there is no sedation. For this test, a liquid dye is placed in the rectum and x-rays are taken to generate a picture of the colon and rectum. Recommended every 5 years.
One of the easiest things you can do to help lower your risk is to get physical. According to the National Cancer Institute, adults who increase physical activity intensity, duration, or frequency can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 30-40% regardless of their body mass index (

Treatment for colorectal cancer varies based on how advanced the cancer is and the medical condition of the patient. Below is a list of common treatments:
  • Surgery – The most common form of treatment. Surgery removes cancerous polyps.
  • Resection – More common for advanced cancers. The section of the colon where the cancer is located is removed and the remaining colon is reconnected.
  • Colostomy – More common for advanced cancers. A section of the colon is removed and the remaining colon is connected to an opening (stoma) in the abdomen wall to take place of the anus.
  • Chemotherapy – Medications are taken to slow cancer growth and prevent future cancer.
  • Radiation – High energy x-rays are used to kill cancer cells in the colon and rectum. Also known as external radiation therapy.
  • Brachytherapy (Also known as internal radiation therapy) – small "seeds" of radioactive material are placed next to or directly into the cancer. This is often used in individuals who are not healthy enough to withstand surgery.