"Colorectal cancer" occurs in the colon or rectum, but is often referred to as just "colon cancer." Most colon cancers begin as one or more small growths, called adenomatous polyps, which over time can turn into cancer. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. Knowing the risk factors for colon cancer can help you make decisions about when to see a doctor or how to lower your risks.
Medical Risk Factors
- Being 50 years old or older
- Having a personal or family history of colon polyps or cancer
- Having a personal or family history of a genetic colon cancer syndrome, such as FAP or HNPCC
- Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
When should I get screened?
New York City colon cancer screening guidelines recommends that:
- Men and women who are at average risk for colon cancer should start screening at age 50 years, with a colonoscopy.
- Annual high-sensitivity FOBT should be recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to have a colonoscopy.
- People who have certain risk factors—such as a personal or family history of colon polyps or cancer; a personal or family history of a hereditary cancer syndrome; or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease--are at higher risk and should talk to their doctor about starting screening at a younger age.
What is a colonoscopy?
Although there are other screening test, a colonoscopy can examine the entire colon effectively and prevent cancer by removing precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum —before they become cancer.
During the colonoscopy exam, a doctor will look inside of the colon using a bendable, lighted tube that has a camera on the end. If growths are found, they can be removed right away. The exam lasts about 30 minutes. It is usually repeated every ten years if the test is normal.
Get more information on "Colonoscopy" from the National Libraries of Medicine.
Get more information on other screening tests from the National Institutes of Health.
Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Polyps and early colon cancers often cause no symptoms. This is why getting screened BEFORE symptoms occur is so important. If there are signs or symptoms, they could include:
- Blood in your stool
- Stomach pain or cramps that happen without reason
- Changes in bowel habits
- Losing weight and not knowing why
- Feeling weak and tired
- Feeling that you need to have a bowel movement after having one
You may have these signs or symptoms, but it may not be cancer. If you have any of these signs or symptoms, please see your doctor for an evaluation.
All of our hospitals offer colon cancer screening services. Find an HHC hospital or healthcare center near you.