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Colorectal Cancer forms in the tissue of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine). Although incidence rates of colorectal cancer have been decreasing due to increased screening and polyp removal, it remains the third most common cancer in both men and women. Arkansas averages approximately 1,475 colorectal cancer cases per year. The death rates for males and females in Arkansas are slightly above the national averages. From 1990 until 2000, the colorectal cancer mortality rate has been significantly higher for African Americans than for the rest of Arkansas and the nation. Hispanic males and females experience lower rates of colorectal cancer than non-Hispanics.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:
- Family history of the disease
- A history of colon polyps that are greater than one centimeter
- A history of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol consumption
- Being overweight
- High dietary intake of red meat and dietary animal fat, and low levels of physical activity.
Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended at ages 50 and older for those at average risk and earlier for those at increased risk. Colorectal cancer screenings consist of either viewing the inside of the colon with a device, an X-ray exam, or by testing for blood in the stool.
A common symptom of colorectal cancer is a change in bowel habits. Symptoms include:
• Having diarrhea or constipation
• Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
• Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
• Finding your stools are narrower than usual
• Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
• Losing weight with no known reason
• Feeling very tired all the time
• Having nausea or vomiting
Other health problems can cause the same symptoms. If you have these symptoms you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Learn more about Colorectal Cancer
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk for colorectal cancer?
Answer: There is strong scientific evidence that having regular screening tests for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 reduces deaths from colorectal cancer. Screening tests can find abnormal growths in the colon and rectum, and these growths can be removed before they turn into cancer. Studies have also shown that increased physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can decrease the risk for colorectal cancer.
Q: How do I know which screening test is right for me?
Answer: Scientific data does not currently suggest that there is a single "best test" for any one person. Each test has advantages and disadvantages. Patients and their doctors are encouraged to discuss the benefits and potential risks associated with each screening option.
Q: Is colorectal cancer screening covered by insurance?
Answer: Most insurance plans help pay for screening tests for people aged 50 or older. Many plans also help pay for screening tests for people younger than 50 who are at increased risk for colorectal cancer. Check with your health insurance provider to determine your colorectal cancer screening benefits.