What You Should Know About Colorectal Cancer

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Please use for reference only.

National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

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Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States.
More Americans die each year from colorectal cancer than from breast cancer or AIDS.
156,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year with colorectal cancer and 57,000 will die from the disease.
Up to 2/3 of those deaths are preventable with simple screening and prevention methods.
Most colon cancers begin as benign polyps, and cancer can be prevented by removal of the polyps.
Men and women are equally at risk for colorectal cancer.
The older you are, the higher your risk; nevertheless, 13,000 cases will still be diagnosed in people under 50.
For most Americans, standard screening with sigmoidoscopy and checking the stool for blood should begin at age 50.
Those with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis), polyps or colon cancer are at higher risk and should consult their doctor to determine when and how to screen.
Colorectal cancer is most curable when found before it causes symptoms. More than 90% of colorectal cancers can be cured when caught in their earliest stages.
When symptoms are present, the cancer may still be curable if not ignored. Symptoms include: rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits, persistent abdominal cramps, chronic diarrhea or constipation, and/or unusual fatigue.
Regular exercise and a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and high fiber foods as well as adequate intake of folic acid and calcium may help to prevent colorectal cancer but are no substitute for regular screening.


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