Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 140,000 people will be diagnosed in 2014 and that more than 50,000 will die from colorectal cancer in the United States. When it comes to your health, colorectal cancer is a disease that can’t be overlooked.

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they're often referred to as colorectal cancer. Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time these polyps can become cancerous. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screenings to help PREVENT colorectal cancer by identifying polyps before they turn into cancer.

There are several signs and symptoms that are more common than others that can warn you about colorectal cancer:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

There also are certain risk factors that may increase a person's chance of developing these polyps or colorectal cancer:

  • A diet that is high in red meats and processed meats
  • Not physically active
  • Very overweight
  • Long-term smoker
  • Heavy drinker
  • Family history of colorectal cancer

Be aware of the potential warning signs and risks to help prevent colorectal cancer.

The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center is a leader in treating patients with early and advanced colorectal cancer. Surgery to remove cancerous tissue is a primary treatment at all stages of colorectal cancer. The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute has access to minimally-invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery to cover the entire surgical gamete for colorectal cancers.

If you feel that you could have colorectal cancer, or you would like to learn more, contact the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center at (562) 933-0900.