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Many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screening. Screening can find precancerous polyps— abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Several screening tests have been developed to help doctors find colorectal cancer early, when it may be more treatable.
The five year survival rate for people diagnosed with early stage colon cancer ranges from 53% to 92%, compared to only 11% for persons diagnosed with metastatic Stage IV colon cancer. While colon cancer occurs most often in people over the age of 50, there is an increasing incidence rate in younger individuals.
Any of the following symptoms should be checked out by your doctor:
– A change in bowel habits that lasts more than a few weeks
– A feeling of having to have a bowel movement that doesn’t go away even after doing so
– Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
– Abdominal/Stomach discomfort, bloating or steady pain
– Unexplained weakness, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss
In average-risk people with no symptoms, doctors recommend regular screening tests for colon cancer starting at age 45. Screening should continue through age 75 for people who are in good health with at least a ten-year life expectancy, and people between 75-85 should discuss with their doctors whether screening is still necessary. People 85 and older should no longer get screened.
Because more people are getting screened for colon cancer, we’re detecting the disease earlier and more often. As many as 90 percent of patients live five years or more after treatment if the cancer is found and removed at an early stage. Routine colonoscopies can find colon cancer in its early stages.