Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, is urging all men and women over the age of 50 to get screened and for colorectal cancer, or tell their loved ones to, during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It is estimated that approximately 7,150 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in Illinois in 2009, and roughly 2,510 people in Illinois will die from the disease this year. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US and in Illinois.
“Unlike some cancers, colorectal cancer is highly preventable and can be detected early through proper screenings. If everyone started going for regular colorectal screening at the age of 50, as many as 60 percent of all colorectal cancer-related deaths could be avoided,” said Arnold. “Early detection can save lives. Routine screenings can help find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.”
Despite being one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States, colorectal cancer often has no symptoms until the disease has progressed beyond the early stages. Some signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than a few days
Feeling the need to have a bowel movement that does not go away after doing so
Rectal bleeding, dark stools or blood in the stool
Cramping or stomach pain
Weakness and tiredness
In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from a precancerous polyp, an abnormal tissue growth, which starts in the lining of the colon or rectum. Routine screenings can find these precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Colorectal cancer screenings should begin soon after turning 50 and continue at regular intervals. People who have had who have had colorectal polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, or those who have relatives who have these conditions, may need to be tested earlier or more often.