Screening Can Save Your Life
Colorectal cancer affects both men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. After lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, Maryland and Anne Arundel County. But, this can change. Regular colorectal cancer screening tests can help prevent disease and save lives.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon (large intestine or large bowel) or rectum (the passageway that connects the colon to the anus). A polyp, which is a small abnormal growth of tissue, can form in these areas of the digestive system. A polyp is not cancer, but it can change over time and turn into cancer. Colorectal cancer screenings can find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening can also identify cancer when it is in its early stages and treatment is most successful.
Screening Recommendations for Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is most often found in people 50 years of age or older. If you are age 50 or older, talk with your doctor about colorectal cancer screening. Your doctor may start screenings earlier based on your risk factors.
The Department of Health recommends a colonoscopy as the best method to do colorectal cancer screenings. A number of other screening and diagnostic tests are available. Talk with your doctor to determine which type is best for you.
Order a FREE Colorectal Cancer Information Kit online or request one from the Learn To Live Line at 410-222-7979.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop colorectal cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Studies have shown the following risk factors for colorectal cancer:
- Age 50 or older
- African Americans beginning at age 45
- Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)
- Genetic alterations (such as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer or familial adenomatous polyposis
- Personal history of cancer
Some studies have suggested that people may be at an increased risk for colorectal cancer due to several lifestyle factors. The following lifestyle factors may contribute to an increased risk:
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Diet low in fiber and high in fat
- Overweight and obesity
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use
If you think you may be at risk, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and can plan an appropriate schedule for screening.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer may have no symptoms at all until late in the disease. However, if you have any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:
- Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement)
- Change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
- Unexplained weight loss
- General abdominal discomfort
- Frequent gas or abdominal pain
- Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
- Weakness or tiredness
- Nausea or vomiting
Several health problems can cause the symptoms listed above. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Screening is key.
Colorectal cancer screening can find and remove polyps, thus decreasing your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Click here for more information on screenings.
Two facilities will provide free screenings to eligible Anne Arundel County residents who are 1) age 50 and over, or younger if high risk to colorectal cancer, and 2) uninsured or have limited insurance. Contact Baltimore County Department of Health at 410-887-3456 or MedStar Health Cancer Network for MedStar Harbor Hospital at 410-350-8216.
Make healthy lifestyle changes!
Some studies suggest that people may reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by making the following lifestyle changes:
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Eat a diet high in fiber and low in fat.
- Lose excess weight.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid tobacco.
For more information on making healthy lifestyle changes, see the Anne Arundel County Department of Health links below.
Your health depends on good communication!
Asking questions and providing information to your health care provider can improve your care. Communication leads to better results, satisfaction, quality of care and safety.
Quality health care is a team effort, and you play an important role! One of the best ways to communicate effectively with your doctor is by asking questions. For information to help you be more involved in your health care, click here. This site provides helpful suggestions for before, during and after your doctor's visits.
Click here to download a brochure that provides tips to prepare and plan your doctor's appointments.
View these websites for more information about colorectal cancer.
Anne Arundel County Department of Health Links: