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Prevention and Early Detection Increasing Survivors of Colorectal Cancer

By Kai Wade - Director of Communications & Social Media | March 3rd, 2015

With the vast improvements in prevention, early detection, and cancer treatment, more than a million individuals in the US find themselves as survivors of colon or rectum cancer.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is defines cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum.

Blount Memorial gastroenterologist Dr. William Lyles, explains “Colon cancer affects both men and women from all ethnicities. However, it’s also one of the most-preventable types of cancer we treat. More than just preventable, it’s also curable when detected at an early stage.”

He adds, “We know that the risk of colon cancer increases with age, particularly for those over age 50 or over age 45 for African-Americans. The most important step you can take to prevent colon cancer is to begin getting screened at age 50. That really is the ideal age for average-risk individuals to begin screening, but if you are African American or have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to begin screening even younger than 50.”

Detecting the Disease

Dr. William Lyles further states, “Most colon cancers begin as benign polyps, which gives us a chance not only to detect the disease in an early stage, but also to cure it. By screening and removing polyps early, we can eliminate most colon cancers.”

When asked about the several different kinds of screening tests for colon cancer, Dr. Lyles enlisted the colonoscopy, as well as flexible sigmoidoscopy. Other tests include Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT), stool DNA testing, double contrast barium enema, and CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy).

Sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, double contrast barium enema, and CT colonography are deemed first-rate at finding cancer and polyps. It is important for patients with colorectal cancer symptoms to understand that polyps found before they become cancer can be removed — and may prevent colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer may cause one or more of the symptoms, including

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool which may make it look dark
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Colon Cancer Statistics

The American Cancer Society's estimates cases for the United States for 2015:

  • 93,090 new cases of colon cancer
  • 39,610 new cases of rectal cancer

Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20. This risk is marginally lower in women than in men.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States when men and women are considered separately, and the second leading cause when both sexes are combined. It is expected to cause about 49,700 deaths during 2015.

Cancer survivors can lead promising, full lives — so it is exceedingly important to have open discussions with your doctor about your health. To learn more about colon cancer treatment, contact a cancer care doctor near you.


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This article was written by the medical research team at does not intend for any of the information on this site to be regarded as medical advice - it is meant as a starting point for understanding treatment details and options before contacting a registered, licensed doctor. We advise all patients to seek medical advice from a doctor.
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