Colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the U.S. each year. According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, on average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 20, or five percent.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer

Some lifestyle factors have been linked to colorectal cancer. These factors include:

  • Diet – if you eat a diet that is high in red and processed meats, you may have a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer. Diets that contain high amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains have been linked to a lower risk for developing colorectal cancer.
  • Weight – if you are overweight and physicially inactive, your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher.
  • Smoking – those who have a long history of smoking are more likely than non-smokers to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
  • Alcohol – colorectal cancer has been linked to heavier alcohol use.

Colorectal cancer symptoms

It is important to be mindful of symptoms of colorectal cancer and to speak with your doctor if you have any concerns. Common symptoms include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the stool (bright red, black or tar-like)
  • Narrower than normal stools
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Abdominal discomfort (gas pains, bloating, fullness, cramps)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant feeling of fatigue

Treatments for colorectal cancer

Surgery is the most common type of treatment for colorectal cancer for stages 0 through III, as well as stage IV if the tumor is obstructive or blocking the bowel. Types of surgery may include polypectomy and local excision, partial colectomy, laparoscopic-assisted colectomy, total colectomy, or a colostomy.

Other types of treatments common for colorectal cancer patients include radiofrequency ablation, cryosurgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or clinical trials.

Colorectal cancer screenings

In addition to being aware of common risk factors and symptoms, you should also be aware of colorectal cancer screenings if you think you may be at a high risk for developing this cancer. You may be at a higher risk if you have a personal or family history of colon or rectal cancer, or if you are African-American or Native American.

Always speak with your primary care doctor with any concerns you have.