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Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

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Colorectal Cancer Awareness

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Much progress has been made in fighting this deadly disease since Congress first designated the awareness month in 2000. Despite this progress, approximately 53,010 people are expected to die of colorectal cancer this year, and the disease is increasingly diagnosed in patients younger than 50.  Fortunately, colorectal cancer is highly preventable and treatable when caught early.

Throughout March, American College of Surgeons experts will be available to speak to media members to discuss what everyone should know about colorectal cancer.

How Common Is Colorectal Cancer?

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States and is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in men younger than 50 and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women of the same age group.

Signs and Symptoms

Although signs and symptoms may not appear until the cancer has advanced, American College of Surgeons experts advise that all people should pay attention to changes in their bowel habits and report these changes to their primary care physician, including:

  • Persistent changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss, especially when it’s advanced and occurs without reason

Early Onset Disease

Is Colorectal Cancer on the Rise in Younger People?

In recent decades, there has been an alarming rise in the incidence of colorectal cancer in adults under the age of 50. This increase has occurred throughout the United States, as well as in other high-income countries.

What to know

  • 10% of all new colorectal cancer diagnoses are early-onset cases.
  • There has been an increasing rate of colorectal cancer-related mortality among young patients in the last decade.

Source: Mayo Clinic. Addressing the rising incidence of early-onset colorectal cancer.

People of all ages should also pay close attention to concerning changes in bowel activity and other signs and symptoms that could indicate colorectal cancer.

Researchers continue to investigate the reasons behind the increase in early-onset colorectal cancer. Research is underway to determine potential lifestyle factors, including poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, and increasing rates of obesity.

Screening Options

Why Is Screening for Colorectal Cancer So Important?

Screening for colorectal cancer saves lives, and should begin at age 45 for people at average risk of developing colorectal cancer, according to guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should be screened 10 years earlier than the youngest age of diagnosis in their family.

Unfortunately, the CDC estimates that only about 70% of U.S. adults aged 50 to 75 are up to date on their screening, and much of the population may not be aware of all the screening options available to them.

What Screening Options Are Available for Colorectal Cancer?

There are several options available for colorectal cancer screening:

  • Visual exams: Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. With this test, physicians use a flexible tube called a colonoscope to see the inside of the entire colon and rectum. During this test, physicians can remove suspicious growths to biopsy (test) them for cancer. They can also remove pre-cancerous polyps that have the potential to develop into cancer. A colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years or more frequently, depending on the results of the test and if there’s a family history of the disease.
    • Other visualization tests include a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) or a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which looks at the lower colon and rectum. These tests should be performed every 5 years.
  • Stool-based tests: Stool-based tests include the fecal immunochemical test (FIT)and guaiac-based fecal occult blood test, which detect hidden blood in the stool. Stool DNA tests can detect blood in the stool and abnormal changes through DNA analysis. These tests should be performed every one to three years depending on the type of test used.

What Should Patients Know About All the Options Available for Colorectal Cancer Screening?

American College of Surgeons experts recommend that colonoscopy remains the gold standard of screening options for colorectal cancer, but overall, choosing any screening option is better than not getting screened at all.