Ironically, even though colorectal cancer is one of the few that can be prevented through screening, it remains the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States for men and women.

“We are making progress with improved awareness and screening programs and are seeing a decline in deaths and incidence rates, but we still have a long way to go,” says Melissa Murphy, MD, a colon and rectal surgeon for Care New England. “We are committed to reaching an 80-percent screening rate by 2018, a national benchmark.

“Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.”

Once you turn 50, talk to your doctor about getting screened regularly for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor sooner if you have a family history of the disease or other condition that puts you at an increased risk. Found in its early stages, 90 percent of colorectal cancer can be cured.

Care New England offers comprehensive colon and rectal cancer care – surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy – at three convenient locations. We offer the latest surgical techniques, including laparoscopic and robotic surgery, to remove the cancer and help you heal faster with less scarring.

What is colorectal cancer?

This cancer occurs in the colon (large intestine) or rectum (connects the colon to the anus) and usually starts from polyps, or a growth. Men and women can get colorectal cancer, which usually occurs in people 50 years or older. Risk increases with age.

Are you at high risk?

Your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
  • You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.

The difficult thing to note is that polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it, which is why getting screened is so important.

What are the symptoms?

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Change in the way your stool is shaped.
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Several different screening tests are used to find polyps or colorectal cancer, including:

  • Colonoscopy – A long, thin, flexible scope with a light is placed into your rectum to examine the colon. During the test, we can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – A short thin, flexible scope with a light is placed into your rectum to examine the lower third of your intestine for polyps or cancer.
  • High-sensitivity FOBT – Presence of blood is looked for in your stool.

Learn More

Please visit Gastroenterology Services at Care New England for more information on digestive disorders or to schedule an appointment with a specialist.