All of the body’s cells normally grow, divide, and then die in order
to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Sometimes this process gets out of control: cells keep growing and dividing even when they are supposed to die. When the cells lining the colon and rectum multiply uncontrolled, colorectal cancer may ultimately develop.
Fortunately, most colorectal cancers begin as small precancerous (adenomatous) polyps. These polyps usually grow slowly and do not cause symptoms until they become large or cancerous. Colorectal cancer can be prevented by removing these precancerous polyps. Also, if detected early, colorectal cancer is potentially curable. That is why it is important to screen for colorectal polyps and cancer before symptoms develop.
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Screening for colorectal cancer should begin at the age of 40, when the risk for developing colorectal polyps and cancer starts to increase. However, if you have a personal or a family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, screening should begin at age 40 or even younger in some circumstances. Men and women should undergo screening since colorectal polyps and cancer affect both genders.
Several tests are used to screen for colorectal cancer. The following is a list of the most common screening tests as well as how often they should be done. Although colonoscopy - the gold standard - is recommended, other options are available.
For people with a family history of colorectal cancer, the screening recommendations are adjusted slightly to include the following:
There are a variety of colorectal polyps, but cancer is thought to arise mainly from adenomas, the precancerous polyps. The follow-up intervals for patients with pre-cancerous polyps include the following:
Even if you do not have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, tell your doctor if you have any of the signs that could indicate a colorectal cancer, no matter what your age. Common signs of colorectal cancer include the following:
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