Recognizing Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Northern Michigan recognizes March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women; however, there are a variety of screening tests available to detect colorectal cancer early.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors

 Early colorectal cancer has no symptoms, so regular screening is vital to early detection. Symptoms that may occur as the cancer progresses can include a change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, cramping or pain in the lower abdominal (stomach) area and constant tiredness or lack of energy.

Any man or woman can get colorectal cancer, although there are certain factors that increase your risk. Common risk factors include: having a family history of colorectal cancer, personal history of colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or type 2 diabetes.

Colorectal Cancer Facts and Figures

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS):

  • Each year, more than 140,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Over 50,000 people in the United States will die from colorectal cancer.
  • The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women.
  • Incidence rates in people 55 years or younger has increased by 2 percent each year since 2007.
  • There are more than 1.5 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

There are a variety of screening tests available. Many colorectal screening tests can find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer. In general, regular screening for colorectal cancer should include:

  • A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • A Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years
  • Either a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years or a colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Other screening tests are available. Ask your health care provider which tests are right for you

“According to the American Cancer Society, people at average risk should begin screening tests at age 45; whereas, people at an increased risk should speak with their health care provider before age 45,” said Katrina Bezak, NP, Regional Director for Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Northern Michigan. “Screenings offer the best chance to have colorectal cancer found early when treatment can be most successful.”

To schedule a colorectal cancer screening, talk to your primary care provider or gastrointestinal specialist for a referral. If you do not have a primary care provider, find one today at