About Colorectal Cancer
A physician referral is required. Please consult your primary physician for a referral and a prescription for virtual colonoscopy preparation. Referrals and prescriptions may be faxed to (608) 263-0700.
- 55,000 people die from it each year
- More than 148,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year
In addition, colorectal cancer is:
- The second leading cause of cancer death among all Americans (after lung cancer)
- The third leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung and breast cancer)
- The third leading cause of cancer death in men (after lung and prostate cancer)
Colorectal cancer (cancer of the large intestine and rectum) is one of easiest cancers to find and eliminate if caught early through simple screening tests. Even so, two-thirds of the people who are at risk fail to be screened, often because of embarrassment or lack of knowledge. That's a mistake that could lead to cancer and death.
Colorectal cancer develops from polyps. A polyp is a small round growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Over time, a polyp may become cancerous. This process takes ten years or more.
Screening is the only way to find polyps and eliminate them before they develop into cancer.
Are You at Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
Men have a slightly greater risk of colon cancer than do women. Aside from your gender, your degree of risk depends on your age and your family history.
Age is the most important risk factor since polyps eventually develop in about half of all people, usually after age 50. Anyone age 50 and older is at "average" risk for colorectal cancer if they have no previous personal or family history of colon polyps or cancer. However, even people at average risk deserve screening because 75 percent of new colorectal cancers occur in this group.
You are at increased risk for colorectal cancer if you:
- Have had colon polyps
- Have a family member (parent, brother, sister or child) who has had colon polyps or colorectal cancer
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
In the early stages, there are no symptoms. That's why regular screening is so important. It is the only way to find a polyp. If the polyp is removed, it cannot develop into cancer.
Over time, symptoms do appear, such as rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, cramping, fatigue, abdominal discomfort and unexplained weight loss. If you wait to be screened until symptoms appear, it may be too late.
Colorectal cancer screening may involve several tests done at different times. You should discuss these options with your health care provider to determine which test is best for you.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test
This test looks for occult (invisible) blood in the stool. The test is available in a take-home kit. You collect stool samples on a card and mail the card to your health care provider’s laboratory. It is recommended yearly, starting at age 50. If blood is detected in the stool, it could be from a polyp, a cancer, or other problems. The next step would be additional testing with an endoscopic colonoscopy.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
The examiner uses a flexible, lighted tube (endoscope) to view the lining of the rectum and the lower third of the colon. Preparation requires an enema before the exam. The test is done in a medical office and takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
Although there may be some abdominal cramps, no sedation is needed. The patient can return to normal activities immediately. If a polyp is found, colonoscopy is scheduled for polyp removal and to examine the rest of the colon. Sigmoidoscopy is recommended once every five years, starting at age 50.
This test can be either traditional (endoscopic) colonoscopy or Virtual Colonoscopy (CT scan). With this test, the physician views the lining of the entire colon and rectum. If a polyp is found during traditional colonoscopy, it can be removed immediately. If a polyp is found during virtual colonoscopy, a traditional colonoscopy can be done to remove the polyp.