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Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the colon or rectum, and is the fourth most common form of cancer in the United States.
Incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer have been declining over the past two decades; however, colon and rectum cancers remain the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
Colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp, a small growth that starts in the inner lining of the large intestine, also known as the colon. Tumors also may form from the inner lining of the very last part of the digestive tract, called the rectum.
Most people with early colon cancer don't have symptoms. Instead, these "silent" tumors grow slowly and often won’t produce symptoms until they reach a large size.
Colorectal cancer is largely preventable, and curable, if detected early.
The average person should have a colonoscopy beginning at age 50. Those with increased risk, such as a family history of colon cancer or a personal history of colon polyps, should be screened earlier and more often.
Colorectal screenings include:
- Colonoscopy – Every 10 years if the study is normal.
- Fecal occult blood test or stool test (FOBT) – Yearly.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Every five years; every three years with FOBT.
Discuss with your primary care physician your risk factors for colorectal cancer and prevention options.