Learn The Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

More than 148,000 people will learn that they have colorectal cancer this year, making it the third leading cancer in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. While a family history of colon cancer, a diet high in fat and red meat, and a history of polyps in the colon, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's Disease are major risk factors associated with colorectal cancer, the disease can be cured and often prevented if people are screened properly.

Colorectal cancer generally affects men and women equally and it becomes more prevalent as you age. It can be detected very early on if, beginning at age 50, you follow the proper screening schedules, including a yearly fecal occult blood test, where your stool is checked for blood; a sigmoidoscopy every five years to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps or other abnormal areas; a double-contrast barium enema every five years where X-rays are taken of your intestines; and a colonoscopy that looks inside the rectum and the entire colon for polyps every 10 years. If pre-cancerous polyps are detected, they can be removed to prevent colorectal cancer.

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If colorectal cancer is found, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy either before or after surgery to remove the tumor. Much of what type of treatment you receive depends on the location and stage of the cancer, your overall health and family history. Colorectal cancer does have a high survival rate, with more than 90 percent of patients living five years after initial diagnosis.

"Talking about colorectal cancer can be embarrassing for many people, but taking advantage of the screening processes available is extremely important. As with any form of cancer, the key to treating and potentially curing colorectal cancer is to catch it early. There are effective treatments for this disease and it's important for people with colorectal cancer to consult several cancer specialists, including a radiation oncologist, to decide on the best treatment for their type of cancer and lifestyle," said Thomas Eichler, M.D. Chair of the Communications Committee for the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and a radiation oncologist at CJW Medical Center in Richmond, Va.

Side effects will be different for each patient depending on the type of cancer and the treatments received. Talk to your doctor to find out what you can expect.

For more information on treatments for colorectal cancer, visit www.rtanswers.org or call ASTRO at 1-800-962-7876 for a free brochure.

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