Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the colon or the rectum. Depending on where it starts, these cancers can be called colon cancer or rectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth called a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.

Some types of polyps can change into cancer over a long period of time, but not all polyps become cancer. If cancer forms in a polyp, it can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum over time.

When cancer cells are in the wall, they can then grow into blood vessels or lymph vessels (tiny channels that carry away waste and fluid). From there, the disease can travel to nearby lymph nodes or spread to other parts of the body.

What are the symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Some of the symptoms of Colorectal Cancer are:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement)
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way
  • Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
  • Weight loss and you don’t know why

How to prevent Colorectal Cancer:

To help prevent colorectal cancer and all types of cancers, medical experts often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This can also help reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease and diabetes.

An active lifestyle is also encouraged, as well as keeping a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption, and maintaining healthy stress levels in your daily life.

Additionally, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that taking low-dose aspirin can help prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in some adults, depending on age and risk factors. For more information on this recommendation, click here.

Screening for and treating Colorectal Cancer:

Regular screening is an important part of keeping your body safe from Colorectal Cancer. Once you turn 45 years old, you should begin screening for colorectal cancer. Polyps can be present in the colon for years with no symptoms before cancer develops. Screening (testing) can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

The U.S Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults ages 45 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. Several tests can be used to screen for colorectal cancer, including:

  1. Stool Test: Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) once a year; Fecal Immunochemical test (FIT) once a year; FIT-DNA also known as stool DNA test once every three years
  2. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years, or every 10 years with a FIT every year.
  3. Colonoscopy: Every 10 years (for people who do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer)

You can ask your provider which screening test is right for you.

If you are diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer, the treatment plan will vary depending on the location of the cancer, stage, and other health factors. Surgery may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, to treat colon cancer.

How can San Ysidro Health help?

San Ysidro Health offers high-quality, accessible primary care and other services that can help keep you healthy. 

A San Ysidro Health provider can help talk to you about screening for colorectal cancer, when appropriate, to make sure you are healthy and remain cancer-free.

By calling or texting (619) 662-4100, you can schedule an appointment today.