Colon Cancer – What is it?
How do you detect it?
50 Years Old or Older?
Get Tested Regularly!
Colon cancer is:
Cancer of the colon or rectum
is another name for your large intestine.
is about 6 feet long.
turns food you eat into waste matter or a bowel
movement as it passes through the colon.
is the last 8-10 inches of the large intestine.
bowel movements travel through the rectum and
pass out of the body through the anus.
Your Colon and Rectum
How long does it take cancer to develop,
and what are your chances?
In most people, colorectal cancers develop
slowly over a period of several years.
10 to 20 years
Chances of developing colorectal cancer
sometime in your life:
A man has a 1 in 17 chance.
A woman has a 1 in 18 chance.
Why does it develop?
Colorectal cancer usually begins as a non-
cancerous (or benign) polyp.
is a growth inside the colon or rectum that is
can be several types.
is not always cancerous.
When Cancer Forms in a Polyp
It can eventually grow through the lining and
into the wall of the colon or rectum.
95 percent of colorectal cancers grow from
cancerous polyps and move into the inside
layer of the wall of the colon and rectum.
Importance of Screening and
Once a non-cancerous (benign)
polyp is removed, it will never
have the chance to develop into
Regular screenings for
colorectal cancer and removal
Reduce a person’s lifetime risk
of dying by 80 percent.
When colorectal cancer is
It is highly curable!
Lower Your Risk of Developing
Colorectal Cancer by:
Increasing physical activity
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on the majority of
In the USA, 1 in 5 colorectal cancers in men and 1 in 8
colorectal cancers in women may be due to cigarette
Improving your diet
Limit your alcohol use.
Limit high-fat diets.
Limit red, charred, or processed meat.
Age and Race Factors for
90 percent of all colorectal
diagnoses happen after age 50.
Race and Ethnicity
Everyone is at risk!
3. Asian Americans/Pacific
5. American Indians
Personal History Risk Factors for
Personal History of Cancer
If you’ve already been treated for
colorectal cancer, you’re at an
increased risk for developing it again.
Personal History of Polyps
If you have had a polyp removed
You are no longer at risk of that
particular polyp developing into cancer.
If you have had an adenomatous polyp
removed, you are more likely to have
other polyps in the future.
Adenomatous polyps are groups of
polyps with abnormal cells that multiply
and may eventually become
Having Inflammatory Bowel Disease
and Type 2 Diabetes Are Risk Factors
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes:
Ulcerative colitis and
The overall increased risk of colorectal cancer for
someone with IBD is estimated to be 4-20 times
higher than normal.
Personal history of type 2 diabetes
Increases your risk of having colorectal cancer
and colorectal polyps by 50 percent
Family History and the Role of
You have a higher risk of developing
colorectal cancer if:
One or more immediate family members were
diagnosed with colorectal, uterine, or stomach
Immediate family members include:
Early Detection Makes a Difference
Approximately 56,000 Americans die from
colorectal cancer each year.
It is the 2nd leading cause of cancer in the
The most effective way to reduce your risk of
colorectal cancer is to get screened routinely.
Start at age 50.
Start earlier if you are at higher risk.
Personal health history
Family health history
What if something is found?
If you have polyps
They can be removed before
they turn into cancer.
Finding and removing
adenomatous polyps can
decrease colorectal cancers by
If cancer is found
It is often curable in its early
Don’t want to get screened?
Doctors need to know about changes in your
bowel habits or rectal bleeding.
Everyone has “private parts,” and it’s
important to keep them healthy!
Don’t want bad news?
Getting screened can find bad things early,
which increases the amount of time you can
spend with your family. They need you!
Doctor didn’t say you need to get tested?
Bring it up with him or her – it’s important!
What test do I take to get screened?
There are several tests to screen
for colorectal cancer.
Some tests are used alone, while
others are used in combination
with other tests.
Talk to your doctor about which
type of test is best for you!
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
Recommended to be done yearly
Checks for hidden blood in the stool
Your doctor gives you a test kit
At home, you place a small amount of your stool from 3
bowel movements on test cards.
You then return the cards to your doctor’s office or a
lab where the stool samples are tested for hidden
If blood is found, a colonoscopy will be needed.
A disadvantage of this test
The test is often negative in people who have
adenomatous polyps and colorectal cancer.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (Flex Sig)
Recommended every 5 years
Examines the lining of your rectum and lower part of
Uses a thin, flexible, lighted tube called a
It is inserted into your rectum and lower part of your
If polyps or lesions are found, a follow-up test is
Patient discomfort – but not painful
Only looks at lower part of colon, therefore polyps in
the upper colon can go undetected.
If a polyp is found, it needs to be followed by a
colonoscopy to remove the polyp.
Combination FOBT and Flex Sig
Some experts recommend using both of
these tests to increase the chance of finding
polyps and cancers.
It is recommended every 5 years.
Similar to the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy except:
It allows the doctor to look at the lining of your rectum and
Done as an outpatient procedure
Done with “conscious sedation”
An IV line is inserted to help you remain calm and
comfortable. Some patients sleep though the procedure.
Not everyone needs sedation.
Uses a thin, flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope
It is inserted into your rectum and colon.
The doctor can also find and remove polyps and some
cancers using the colonoscope.
It is recommended every 10 years for:
Individuals with no family or personal history of colon
cancer and no symptoms.
Colonoscopy (continued) …
Procedure takes 15–30 minutes.
May take longer if polyps are removed.
Called a polypectomy
A wire loop is passed through the scope to cut the
polyp from the lining of the colon using an electrical
Polyps are collected and
sent to the lab for
Double Contrast Barium Enema
This test allows the doctor to see an x-ray
image of the rectum and entire colon.
First you are given an enema with a liquid
called barium that flows from a tube into your
colon, followed by an air enema.
The barium and air create an outline around
your colon, allowing the doctor to see if
anything is wrong.
Recommended every 10 years.
Detects only 50 percent of adenomatous
polyps greater than 1 cm in size and only
33 percent of polyps .5 cm in size
May miss up to 15 percent of colorectal
Does not allow removal of polyps
Worried about How Much It Will Cost?
If you are 50 years old or older and have
You are eligible for colorectal screenings!
For more information, call or visit:
If you have private insurance
Most insurers are now paying for some form of
Often including screening colonoscopy
Think about the future
Your family needs you.
If you’re 50 years old or older
You have the power to determine your future!
Written by Courtney J. Schoessow, MPH; February 2006
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