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Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in Georgia and the U.S. But it doesn’t have to be. Although this type of cancer is common and deadly, it’s also very treatable and even preventable if it’s detected early with proper screening. Learn the basic facts about colorectal cancer and what you need to know to prevent it.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer inside the colon or rectum. It almost always develops when abnormal growths, called polyps, become cancer.  It is the third most common cause of cancer for men and women.

Who is at risk?

Colorectal cancer affects men and women, and the risk greatly increases when a person reaches age 50. Certain conditions, such as a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or certain genetic factors can increase a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.

How can I prevent it?

Screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. More than 50 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women over age 50 were screened regularly. But living a healthy lifestyle is important, too – getting regular exercise, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol can lower a person’s risk of colorectal cancer and other chronic diseases.

When should I get screened?

Screening is recommended for men and women between ages 50 and 75. People with average risk should get a colonoscopy every 10 years or stool-based testing every year.   But if you are at high risk, you may need to start screenings earlier. Risk factors can include poor diet, family history or a history of bleeding from the rectum. Anyone with a close relative who has had colon cancer should get screened starting 10 years younger than that family member was diagnosed.  

Do I have to get a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is one of the most reliable ways to detect colorectal cancer, but there are other testing options. Doctors can use FIT or FOBT, highly sensitive tests on a stool sample, which can detect signs of polyps or cancer. Your doctor can tell you which screening test is right for you. The key is to get regular screening.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Screening:

  • Do I need a screening for colorectal cancer?
  • What screening test(s) do you recommend for me?
  • How do I prepare? Do I need to change my diet or my usual medication schedule?
  • What's involved in the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful?
  • Is there any risk involved?
  • When and from whom will I get results?
  • If you're having a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, you will want to know—

o   Who will do the exam?
o   Will I need someone with me?

More Resources

Read Gov. Nathan Deal’s proclamation of March 2014 as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Georgia. 

Read about Georgians who have faced colorectal cancer.   

Your organization can make a difference in the fight against colorectal cancer. Take the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s pledge to help increase screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.

To obtain more information about the Georgia Colorectal Cancer Screening Program (GACRCP) and related services throughout the state, please visit our main GACRCP page.