Most people are in denial about the possibility of getting any form of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is an uncomfortable topic for most people to talk about, but even though people don’t talk about it, it’s a serious issue. About one-third of all people with colon cancer and cancer in the rectum die from the disease within five years of diagnosis. Colorectal cancer does deserve your attention because the more you know the better your chances are of beating it.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., behind only lung and prostate cancers in men and lung and breast cancers in women. Colorectal cancer also is expected to cause about 50,000 deaths this year making it the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20.

Colorectal cancer starts in the inner lining of the colon and/or rectum, slowly growing through some or all of its lining. Colorectal cancer typically begins as a growth of tissue, called a polyp, and certain polyps can develop into cancer. Colon cancer affects men and women of all ages and races, but about nine out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are at least 50-years-old.

It is difficult for the average person to know if they have colorectal cancer, but there are certain things to pay attention to that can be indicators.

Common signs of colorectal cancer symptoms are:

  • Changes in your bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely, rectal bleeding or finding blood in your stool
  • Finding your stools are narrower than usual
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, pain or feeling full or bloated
  • Losing weight with no known reason
  • Weakness or fatigue

Risk factors that can potentially cause colorectal cancer are:

  • Diet high in red or processed meats
  • Obesity
  • Heavy drinker
  • Physically inactive lifestyle
  • Family history of colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease

Getting regular screening tests for colorectal cancer is the single best way to protect yourself from the disease. It can catch cancer early, when it’s most treatable, and help prevent the disease by finding polyps that can turn into cancer.

Being aware of the potential warning signs and risks of colorectal cancer can save your life.

If you or anyone you know presents signs of colorectal cancer, call your doctor as you may require a gastroenterologist.