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Colorectal Cancer

Text Alternative for Colorectal Cancer: Catching It Early

American Cancer Society // Infographics // 2021

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the US. Routine testing can help prevent colorectal cancer or find it at an early stage, when it’s smaller and easier to treat. If it’s found early, the 5-year survival rate is 90%. Many more lives could be saved by understanding colorectal cancer risks, increasing screening rates, and making lifestyle changes.

The 5-year survival rate is 91% if colorectal cancer is found at the local stage. However, only 38% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. This is partly due to low testing rates.

  • Older age
  • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hereditary syndromes (such as Lynch Syndrome)
  • Type 2 Diabetes

Who gets colorectal cancer?

Anyone can get colorectal cancer, but some people are at an increased risk.

Sex: Colorectal cancer is more common in men and than in women.

Race/Ethnicity: Colorectal cancer incidence rates are highest in African American men and women, followed closely by the American Indian/Alaska Native population. The rates of colorectal cancer in non-Hispanic White and Hispanic/Latino populations are lower than these populations.  Asian/Pacific Islander men and women have the lowest rates of colorectal cancer.

If You’re Age 45 or Older, Talk to Your Doctor About Getting Screened.

For average-risk individuals with no symptoms, testing should begin at age 45. If you have any of the risk factors or are experiencing symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider right away. Symptoms include rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, dark- or black-colored stools, change in shape of stool, lower stomach cramping, unnecessary urge to have a bowel movement, prolonged constipation or diarrhea, and unintentional weight loss.

Pros and cons of different types of screening tests

Several types of screening tests can be used. Talk to your health care provider about which ones might be good options for you. No matter which test you choose, the most important thing is to get tested.

Stool-based tests

Guaiac-based Fecal Occult Blood Test/Fecal Immunochemical Test: 

Can detect blood in stool caused by tumors or polyps. Health care provider gives patient at-home kit.


  • No bowel preparation
  • Sampling done at home


  • May miss some polyps/cancers
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal
  • Done every year

Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA): 

Looks for certain DNA changes from cancer or polyps. Health care provider has kit sent to patient.


  • No direct risk to the colorectum
  • No bowel preparation
  • Sampling done at home


  • May miss some polyps/cancers
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal
  • Done every 3 years

Visual examination tests


Direct exam of colon and rectum. Polyps removed if present. Required for abnormal results from other tests.


  • Can usually view entire colorectum
  • Can biopsy and remove polyps
  • Done every 10 years


  • Can be expensive
  • Higher risk than other tests
  • Full bowel preparation needed

CT Colonography: 

Detailed, cross-sectional, 2-D or 3-D views of the colon and rectum with an x-ray machine linked to a computer


  • Fairly quick and safe
  • Can usually view entire colorectum
  • No sedation needed
  • Should be done every 5 years


  • Still fairly new test
  • Can’t remove polyps during test
  • Full bowel preparation needed
  • Colonoscopy needed if abnormal

What can you do about it

Reduce your risk by managing your diet, weight, and physical activity, and by avoiding tobacco and alcohol.


  • Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
  • Limit intake of red and processed meats, fried foods and high-calorie fats.


  • Get to and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid weight gain as an adult.

Physical Activity

  • Increase intensity and amount of physical activity.
  •  Limit sedentary behavior and screen-based entertainment.


  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.

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