BHealthy Blog

What You Need to Know About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum, is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Protect yourself from colorectal cancer by learning more about the disease, its symptoms, risk factors and the screenings that could save your life.


– Rectal bleeding with bright red blood

– Blood in stool, dark stool

– Constipation, diarrhea or narrowing of the stool that lasts more than a few days

– Sudden weight loss

– Fatigue

– Abdominal pain

– Frequently feeling you need to have a bowel movement with no relief after having one

Risk Factors

– Being over the age of 45

– A family history of colorectal cancer

– Drinking more than 3 alcoholic beverages a day

–A previous history of colorectal cancer, high-risk adenomas, ovarian cancer or inflammatory bowel disease

– An inherited genetic syndrome

– Smoking

– Being of African-American descent

– Obesity

– A sedentary lifestyle

– Type 2 diabetes

Prevention and Screenings

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

You can negate many of the controllable risk factors of colorectal cancer and other diseases by making healthy choices in your everyday life, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and not smoking.

Consider genetic testing.

If you have a family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, you may consider working with a genetic counselor to see if you carry an inherited gene for colorectal cancer. Typically, genetic testing is done for those who have had one or more first-degree family members with colorectal cancer, especially if the family member had the disease at a young age.

Get regular screenings.

Early detection is key to surviving colorectal cancer. When discovered in its early stages, the 5-year relative survival rate for the disease is approximately 90%. Screenings can also help prevent colorectal cancer from forming by helping physicians detect pre-cancerous polyps that need to be removed. People with an average risk of colorectal cancer should begin screenings at age 45. Once you turn 75 years of age, the decision to be screened should be based on your preferences, life expectancy, overall health and the results of prior screenings. Screening options include:

Stool-based tests

– Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) conducted once a year

– Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) conducted once a year

­– Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) conducted every 3 years

Visual exams

Colonoscopy conducted every 10 years

– CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) conducted every 5 years

– Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) conducted every 5 years, along with air contrast barium enema

Baptist Health is committed to helping you minimize your risk of colorectal cancer, and provide exceptional treatment for the disease should you or one of your family members ever need it. If you’d like to discuss your risk for colorectal cancer or schedule a screening, request an appointment with one of our expert physicians.