Basic Information About Colorectal Cancer
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the colon or rectum, it is called colorectal cancer. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short.
Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older.
Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.
If you are aged 50 or older, get screened now. If you think you may be at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.
While screening rates have increased in the U.S., not enough people are getting screened for colorectal cancer. In 2014, 65.7% of U.S. adults were up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening; 7% had been screened, but were not up-to-date; and 27.3% had never been screened.
Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vital Signs: Colorectal cancer screening test use—United States, 2012. MMWR 2013;62(44):881–888.