Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common. Most colorectal cancers begin as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called a polyp. Most polyps are harmless but some can turn into colorectal cancer if not removed early. Due to improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment, more than a million people in the United States count themselves as survivors of colorectal cancer.
Receiving a regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer. It can take as many as 10 to 15 years for a polyp to develop into colorectal cancer. Regular screening provided by Mercy Health colorectal specialists can often prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Screening can also often find colorectal cancer early, when it is most likely to be curable.
So, what tests should you be scheduling to lessen your risk? Mercy Health recommends that men and women 50 and older should follow one of the following exam schedules:
- A fecal occult blood test every year and a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
- A colonoscopy every 10 years.
- A double-contrast barium enema every five to ten years.
- A digital rectal exam should be done at each of these exams. People at moderate to high risk for colorectal cancer should talk with a doctor about a different testing.
There are several ways to treat colorectal cancer, depending on its type and stage. Local therapies, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and ablation or embolization, treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body. Systemic therapies, such as chemotherapy and targeted therapy, utilize drugs that are given by mouth or directly into the bloodstream. At Mercy Health, our expert colorectal providers will work to identify and treat any polyps that may become cancerous, and will work with our cancer specialists to build your treatment plan when cancer is discovered.