Colorectal Cancer


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Colorectal cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in the lining of the colon or rectum located at the end of the digestive system. Colorectal cancer grows slowly over time and mostly begins as a polyp that is non-cancerous (benign). An uncommon type of polyp called adenoma can become cancerous (malignant).


Colorectal cancer symptoms do not usually occur in the early stages of cancer. Some symptoms during late stages may include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely.
  • Blood (dark spots) in your stool.
  • Gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a MemorialCare Physician partner.

Risk Factors & Prevention

You are at a greater risk for colorectal cancer risk if you:

  • Are over the age of 50.
  • Have a colorectal polyp.
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer.
  • Have a personal history of colorectal cancer.
  • Have a high fat diet.
  • Smoke or are exposed to smoke.
  • Have a history of bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or crohn’s disease – an inflammation of the colon).

The causes of colorectal cancer are unknown. Some risk factors such as smoking and diet can be controlled to help prevent colorectal cancer. It’s also important to have a regular screening for colorectal cancer to detect polyps or growths at early stages. Understanding your genetic make-up with genetic counseling can help determine your risk for colorectal cancer.

Digital rectal exam screening recommendations:

  • 50 years of age or older - Annually for men and women.

Colonoscopy screening recommendations:

  • 50 years of age or older - Every 10 years for men and women.

Or Sigmoidoscopy screening recommendations:

  • 50 years of age or older - Every five years for men and women.