Anyone who has a colon is at risk to get colorectal cancer. The colon is referred to as the large bowel and also includes the rectum. It is the third most common cancer amongst men and women and it is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. In 2012, it is predicted that 144,000 new cases will be diagnosed and that more than 51,000 Americans will die from that disease this year.
"You have a 1 in 20 chance of getting colorectal cancer in your lifetime, with men having a slightly greater risk than women to get this disease," says Raymond Mis, DO, gastroenterologist at Kent Hospital. "Six percent of men in the United States will develop colorectal cancer."
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:
- A high-fat diet, a low fiber diet.
- Drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day.
- Family history of colon cancer.
- Age (with 90 percent of cases occurring over the age of 50).
- Previous history of colorectal cancer.
- A history of inflammatory bowel disease.
Symptoms include rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain and weight loss. Of note, 20 percent of patients are symptom free.
Every man should have a rectal exam at the age of 40 to examine the prostate gland and to have stool checked for blood. This should be repeated yearly. If everything is well, a colonoscopy should be performed at the age of 50, and then periodically depending upon the results.
Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that is truly preventable. Please discuss colorectal cancer with your primary care physician to discuss the best approach for you.