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Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a disease in which cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. Abnormal growths, called polyps, can form in the inner lining of the colon or rectum and some of the polyps can turn into cancer. Screening beginning at age 45 can locate the polyps so they can be removed before they become cancerous.

What do I need to know about colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer, is the second deadliest cancer in the U.S. In Vermont, it’s the third most common cancer diagnosed. Overall, it’s the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women.

Healthcare providers have screening tests and treatments that detect and remove precancerous polyps. If untreated, colon cancer may spread to other areas of your body. Because of screening, early detection and early treatment, fewer people are dying from colon cancer.

Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially early on. That is why screening is so important. Even if you have no family history, talk to your primary care provider about screening for colorectal cancer because most colorectal cancers occur in people with no family history of the illness.

How to prevent colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is highly preventable; and at Community Health, prevention is the key. The Centers for Disease Control recommends regular screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 45 because screening:

  • shows the warning signs of colon and rectal cancer
  • helps prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed before they turn into cancer
  • finds colorectal cancer early when treatment is most effective

The screening process

There are several screening options, so, it’s important to talk to your primary care provider about which one is right for you and how often you should be tested. It is important to know that if your screening test result is positive or abnormal, a colonoscopy test will be needed to complete the screening process.

Colorectal Conacer

The three screening options include:

  • Colonoscopy visual examination
  • Multitarget stool DNA test (Cologuard)
  • FIT/FOBT stool sample

What are the risk factors?

The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. Other factors that increase risk of colorectal cancer include:

Talk to your provider

Talk to your primary care provider about colorectal cancer and the risk factors. An estimated 153,000 people will be diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer this year – one in every 24 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Your provider will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the screening options and help you decide what is best for you. These factors will include:

  • Your preferences
  • Your medical condition
  • Your personal or family history
  • If you have a genetic syndrome
  • The likelihood that you will get the test
  • The resources available for testing and follow-up

If you or a loved one are between 45 and 75 years of age, take action and talk to your Community Health primary care provider about getting screened. The decision to be screened between ages 76 and 85 should be made on an individual basis. If you are older than 75, or are at increased risk of getting colorectal cancer, talk to your provider about screening.


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