Colorectal cancer starts in the colon (large intestine) or rectum. The risk of colorectal cancer goes up as you get older (90% of cases occur in people over 50), and if you eat a meat-heavy diet, smoke, or have a family history of the cancer. Colorectal cancer symptoms include pain, blood in the stool, and a change in bowel habits. Routine screening for colorectal cancer is recommended starting at age 50—or even sooner for those with risk factors.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month so the spotlight is once again on screening for this often preventable cancer. Let's face it, no one likes getting a colonoscopy, even though it's one of the best screening tests for colorectal cancer. But if everyone followed the recommended screening, 60% of all deaths due to colorectal cancer could be prevented.
Stepped-up colon-cancer screening has helped slash death rates from the disease across the U.S. in recent years, but not all regions of the country have benefited equally. According to a new study from the American Cancer Society, the drop in death rates has been considerably faster in the Northeast than in the South.