Blog
Mar 11
Blog: National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

In the United States, colorectal cancer—a disease of the colon and/or the rectum—is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in men and women. Abnormal growths, called polyps, form and over time, they may grow into the wall of the colon or rectum. Once the cancer cells have settled into the wall, they have relatively easy access to lymph vessels and blood vessels, and can use them to travel to other parts of the body.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 150,000 new colorectal cancer cases in 2022, and rates have more than doubled in adults under 50 since the 1990s. As with any disease, the best prevention is early detection, so it’s important to understand the risks.

Your likelihood of a colorectal cancer diagnosis increases with age, but a family history of this cancer or of colorectal polyps is a risk factor, too. Those living with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease should talk with their doctor about regular screenings because, due to the chronic inflammation of IBD, their risk is a bit higher.

Other lifestyle factors that may increase your risk include:

  • Lack of regular physical activity 
  • A high-fat, low-fiber diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • Tobacco use and alcohol consumption
  • Obesity

Compared to other types of cancer or chronic disease, the links between colorectal cancer and poor diet and exercise are quite strong. That means being active and adjusting your eating habits can make a real difference in decreasing your risk. The registered dietitians at Saratoga Hospital offer a broad spectrum of services to help patients meet their specific goals, so if you’re interested in reducing your chances of cancer or simply living a healthier lifestyle, call Outpatient Nutrition at 518-886-5121 for more information. A physician referral is required.

Along with making adjustments to your diet and exercise habits, screening is essential. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends all adults at an average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screenings at age 45, and continue until age 75. Your primary care provider will make recommendations on the type of screening that is best for you.

It is important to note that colorectal cancer does not always cause symptoms, which is why regular cancer screenings are so significant. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in or on your stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way
  • Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
  • Unexplained weight loss

Talk with your provider if you have any questions or concerns. They will be able to advise you on next steps. If you currently do not have a primary care provider, please call the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Patient Concierge at 518-886-5900, and we will help you find the physician that is right for you.


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