National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death among men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 153,020 cases of colorectal cancer will appear in 2023.

Someone with this form of cancer may only begin to experience symptoms from stage two onward, with many cases only presenting symptoms in the third and fourth stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they typically include changes in bowel habits and stool consistency, bloody stool, chronic abdominal pain, and unexplained weight loss.

The primary risk factor for colorectal cancer is age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend regular screening for this form of cancer starting at age 45. However, if you’re at higher-than-average risk for colorectal cancer, screening may need to begin at an earlier age.

Other risk factors include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Certain genetic syndromes such as Lynch syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco usage

Aside from improving lifestyle factors such as physical activity levels and nutrition, the best way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to keep up with regular diagnostic screening. Procedures for screening include:

Stool tests: These tests check for blood or changes to your DNA in your stool. The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) which check for blood, are performed annually. The FIT-DNA test, which checks the DNA in your stool, is performed every three years.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: This test checks for polyps and cancer inside the lower third of your rectum and is performed every five years or every 10 years if you receive a FIT annually.

Colonoscopy: A standard colonoscopy checks for polyps and cancer throughout the rectum and the entire colon, allowing your doctor to spot and even remove most of them. This is performed every 10 years for people with an average risk of colorectal cancer. Alternatively, a virtual colonoscopy, which produces images of the entire colon using X-rays, can be performed every 5 years.

You can receive a colorectal cancer screening from a gastroenterologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.