Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States after lung cancer, and the third most common type of non-skin cancer in both men and women. The number of people affected by the disease is staggering with estimates saying more than 134,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and nearly 50,000 will die from it every year.
The disease strikes when abnormal cells in the colon or rectum divide uncontrollably, ultimately forming a malignant tumor. Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp, a growth in the tissue that lines the inner surface of the colon or rectum.
There is nothing people can do to avoid the cancer, but catching it early is imperative. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colon cancer using either colonoscopy or one of the two other procedures. (See AvMed EMBRACE Summer/Fall page 4)
In general, people should be screened at regular intervals beginning at age 50. Those at increased risk because of family history, polyps, or certain inherited conditions may be advised to start screening before age 50 and/or have more frequent screenings. The United States
Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that screening continues to age 75.
If a screening test finds an abnormality, additional tests including x-rays of the gastrointestinal tract may be recommended.
There are many new procedures being developed to make colon cancer screening easier and more accessible. For information about procedures in development, visit the National Cancer Institute online or call 1–800–422–6237.
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