Facts about Colorectal Cancer

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Published on February 14, 2018

Facts about Colorectal Cancer

X-ray of colon

X-ray of a colonEvery year, almost 135,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in the United States. Since 2001, improvements in treatment, awareness and screening have led to a declining mortality rate; however, as of 2016, it remained the third most common cause of cancer death. As we grow older, our risk of developing colorectal cancer increases. Across the country, about 90 percent of new cases occur in people over the age of 50.

At PIH Health Whittier Hospital, colorectal cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men and third most common in women. In fact 87 percent of those diagnosed were people over the age of 50, with almost 50 percent of those diagnosed being 70 or older.

Besides age, family history also plays an important role. According to Nathan S. Honda MD, PIH Health pathologist, people with close family members (parents, siblings, or children) who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or polyps are at increased risk of developing the disease. Fortunately, colorectal cancer can be prevented. In fact, as many as 90 percent of these cancers can be prevented if at-risk people over 50 years of age were screened. The American Cancer Society recommends that people with an average risk begin undergoing screening procedures at the age of 50. Colonoscopies are the most effective method of screening because pre-cancerous polyps can be removed during the procedure. It is recommended that those with a family history undergo screenings at a younger age.

Patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer at an early stage have a 90 percent survival rate, yet only 39 percent of cases are found early. As the disease progresses, it can spread to nearby organs and lower survival rates.

According to Neal M. Shindel MD, PIH Health Gastroenterologist, people can take direct action to help prevent colorectal cancer. Risk factors include obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, eating red meats, alcohol and even not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Steps as simple as making healthier food choices, a balanced diet and staying physically active can prevent colorectal cancer.

For additional information on colonoscopy screenings, visit PIHHealth.org/Colonoscopy or call the PIH Health Colon Cancer Prevention Program at 562.967.2656 to schedule a screening.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.