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What is Colorectal Cancer?

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What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer, or CRC, is a disease of the colon or rectum, which are parts of the digestive system. Unlike most cancers, colorectal cancer is often preventable with screening and highly treatable when detected early. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Most cases of colorectal cancer occur in people ages 45 and older, but the disease is increasingly affecting younger people. Each year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease, and more than 50,000 die.

Colorectal cancer may develop without symptoms. If you are 45 or older and at average risk, it's time to get screened.

Risk factors

While anyone can develop colorectal cancer, a few conditions can increase risk:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps

  • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)

  • Black/African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews are at higher risk

Common Symptoms

Colorectal cancer often develops without symptoms. When they occur, symptoms may include:

  • Persistent unusual bowel movements like constipation or diarrhea

  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away

  • Losing weight for no reason

  • Blood in or on stool

Most colorectal cancers start as an abnormal tissue growth, called a polyp, inside the colon or rectum. With the help of screening tests, doctors can detect polyps, remove them, and prevent them from developing into colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the US among men and women combined. But, it is highly treatable when it is discovered early. Even if it spreads into nearby lymph nodes, surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy is very effective.

In the most advanced cases — when the cancer has spread to the liver, lungs, or other sites — chemotherapy can often make surgery an option, prolonging and adding quality to life. Research is ongoing to learn more about this disease and provide more hope to people with all stages of colorectal cancer.

If you or a loved one is suffering from colorectal cancer, reach out to Heptner Cancer Center for expert cancer care in northeast Wyoming.

The Heptner Cancer Center at Campbell County Memorial Hospital (

Source: What is Colorectal Cancer? | Colorectal Cancer Alliance (

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