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Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal Cancer: What You Should Know

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the United States.

  • More than 135,000 people will get colorectal cancer in the United States this year.
  • About one in 21 men and one in 23 women will get the disease during their lifetimes.
  • CRC is the third leading cause of cancer death in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. However, the death rate from this cancer has been dropping steadily over the last few decades, most likely due to better screening and treatment.

Blood in the stool and other stomach problems such as gas, constipation, pain, vomiting, unexplained weight loss or bloating can be a sign of CRC.

CRC usually starts from polyps or other precancerous growths in the rectum or the colon (large intestine). The only way to find a polyp, precancerous growth, or CRC is to do a screening test or procedure.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

The benefits of screening are so great that doctors recommend most people start colorectal cancer screening by age 45. Some people who are at higher risk may need to start screening before age 45.

Five types of tests are used to screen for CRC:

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Virtual colonoscopy
  • DNA stool test

Your doctor can prescribe an at-home stool kit,  a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), to test your stool for blood or DNA (or both). Blood in the stool may be a sign of polyps, cancer, or other conditions.

With colonoscopy, doctors use thin tube with a light, camera, and surgical tools to look inside the rectum and colon for growths, other abnormal tissue, or cancer.

FDA-Approved or Cleared for Colorectal Cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviews and clears or approves colorectal cancer tests (Guaiac FOBT, Immunochemical FOBT,  Fecal Immunochemical Test or FIT), prescription medicines, and medical devices (sigmoidoscope, colonoscope), used during colorectal cancer screening.

Talk to your doctor before taking aspirin for colorectal cancer prevention or heart disease prevention.

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