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Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer as many people know it, is a common and treatable form of cancer that occurs when cells in the colon and rectum grow out of control. Sometimes this abnormal growth leads to polyps which can turn into cancer.

The Female doctor talking to a female patient.At Brevard Health Alliance (BHA), we are here to help you with quality care and useful information about colon cancer to raise awareness, encourage early detection, and empower you to take an active role in the fight against it. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into colon cancer, drawing heavily from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More About Colon Cancer

Colon cancer develops in the colon or rectum, which are parts of the large intestine. Often, the condition starts as noncancerous polyps that can grow and can turn into cancerous cells. The exact causes of colon cancer are not always clear, but there are a few risk factors that may increase the likelihood of it developing.

According to the CDC, risk factors for colon cancer include:


Birthday Cake Icon Age – as we age, our risk for colon and other cancers increases. Most people diagnosed with colon cancer are over age 50.
Family Icon Family history – people who have had family members with colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps are at higher risk for developing it themselves.
IBS Icon Inflammatory bowel disease – people with conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have an increased risk for colon cancer.
Exercise Icon Lifestyle factors – Eating a low-fiber, high fat diet; lacking physical activity; obesity; smoking; and excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk for developing colon cancer.

Symptoms and Early Detection

Colon cancer can have subtle or no symptoms when it first occurs, which is why regular screenings are crucial for early detection. As colon cancer advances, symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, frequent abdominal discomfort, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have colon cancer, but you should seek a prompt evaluation by a healthcare professional to receive a proper diagnosis.

Screening Guidelines

A physician making notes on a clip boardThe CDC recommends that anyone between the ages of 45 and 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. Regardless of age, people with other risk factors should talk with their provider about when to start screening. Based on your situation, your provider will recommend a screening test that could include a colonoscopy, a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), or a stool DNA test. Early detection through these screenings can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment and increase your chance of survival.


Prevention Strategies

While certain risk factors for colon cancer are beyond our control, adopting healthy lifestyle choices can aid in prevention. The CDC recommends the following strategies:

  • Maintain a healthy diet: Eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit the amount of red and processed meats you eat.
  • Stay physically active: Getting regular physical activity can reduce the risk of colon cancer. Aim for at least 150 minutes (30 minutes a day, five days a week) of moderate-intensity exercise per week, like brisk walking. The CDC also recommends at least two days a week of muscle strengthening activity that targets all the major muscles in your body.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a risk factor for colon cancer, so achieving and keeping a healthy weight can help prevent cancer and other health issues.
  • Limit alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco: Excessive alcohol consumption and any amount regular of tobacco use are linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Moderating your drinking and quitting smoking can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Treatment Options

For people diagnosed with colon cancer, treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. The choice of treatment depends on several factors such as the stage of cancer, overall health, and individual preferences.

At BHA, we also encourage anyone with a cancer diagnosis to include mental health in your cancer treatment plan. Mental and behavioral healthcare can help provide you with a healthy outlet for your feelings and equip you with practical coping skills. You can read more tips in our blog article, Dealing With A New Cancer Diagnosis.

We’re Here to Help

At BHA, we know that colon cancer is a significant public health concern and affects the lives of many people in our community. Through awareness, early detection, and preventive measures, we can make strides in reducing its impact.

We encourage you to advocate for regular screenings, get support in creating healthy lifestyle choices, and talk openly with your healthcare provider about fighting against colon cancer. By working together, we can treat and prevent colon cancer.