scroll to top of page

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Posted on March 12, 2018

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older.

The good news? If everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to encourage people to get screened.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the presence of unusual cells in the colon or the rectum. Most colorectal cancer begins as a non‐cancerous growth called a polyp that forms on the innermost layer of the colon or rectum.Colorectal Cancer

Some polyps can become cancerous. It can take a polyp about ten years to develop into a cancer. As the tumor develops, it grows through several layers of tissue in the colon and/or rectum. Eventually the tumor may grow through the colon and into nearby lymph or blood vessel, and may even spread to lymph nodes and distant sites in the body.

There are several signs and symptoms that may indicate
active colon cancer including:

  • Change in bowel habits; such as diarrhea or
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort: cramps, gas, pain
  • Feeling that the bowel does not completely empty
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

How can Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month make a difference?

We can use this month to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and take action toward prevention. Communities, organizations, families, and individuals can get involved and spread the word.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Encourage families to get active together – exercise may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Talk to family, friends, and people in your community about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50.
  • Encourage people over 50 to use this interactive tool to decide which colorectal cancer screening test they prefer.
  • Ask doctors and nurses to talk to patients age 50 and older about the importance of getting screened.

Screening Options

Everyone ages 50 to 75 needs to get screened for colorectal cancer. Screening saves lives because it can help catch cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. There are 3 main types of colorectal cancer screening tests: colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and stool tests. Each test has pros and cons.

To find out which test you might prefer, answer the following questions. Questions like these can help patients make health care decisions that fit their preferences. Then share the results with your doctor. Together, you and your doctor can choose the best test for you. Take the online quiz.

Early Detection is Key


  • Anyone over the age of 50 should be screened every 10 years if they do not have family members with a history of cancer. If you have family members who were diagnosed with colon cancer, you should be screened with a colonoscopy 10 years younger than the age at which the family member was diagnosed (i.e. if your relative was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 50, you should be screened for colon cancer at age 40)
  • Age 50 and older if no family history, and done every 10 years, unless physician states an early repeat of screening.
  • If family history of a first degree relative: screening should take place 10 years prior to the relative was diagnosed with cancer


There are many options: colonoscopy, guaiac‐based fecal occult blood tests, fecal immunochemical tests, stool DNA test, and CT colonography.

  • Talk to your physician about what screen would be best for you.
  • The best screening test is a screen test that gets done.

What are my risks?


  • These are things you can change to decrease the likelihood of colorectal cancer
Risk How to change it
Low fiber diet Increase fiber intake such as split peas, black beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, berries
High Fat diet Restrict high fat meats and sugar intake
Low fruit or vegetable intake Increase fruits and vegetables in your diet
Lack of exercise Increase physical activity. Find a friend who can hold you accountable
Overweight/ obesity Change in diet and exercise
Alcohol consumption Decrease alcohol intake
Tobacco use Quit smoking, ask your health
provider for help
Insufficient intake of water Drink 8 ounces of water a day

Other risk factors

  • Inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis
  • Personal family history: colorectal polyps and cancer


For additional reliable Health information contact your health provider or the following organizations:

To learn more about Cancer services available at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, click here. 

Other Sources: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion