What Causes Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer may be caused by several risk factors, some preventable and some not. Risk factors refer to anything that raises your chances of developing a disease such as cancer, but having a risk factor does not necessarily mean you will get the
disease. The links between lifestyle-related factors and colon cancer risk are some of the strongest for any cancer.
Colon cancer risk factors you can change include:
- Being overweight or obese – the risk of developing and dying from colon cancer is higher among people who are overweight or obese. Some research indicates this link may be stronger in men than women.
- Lack of physical activity – studies show that regular exercise and physical activity may prevent approximately 15 percent of colon cancers and six other types of cancers (breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic
cancer and meningioma)
- Some types of diets – a diet that is high in red meats (beef, pork, lamb or liver) and processed meats (hotdogs and some luncheon meats) as well as some food preparation and cooking techniques, such as frying, broiling or grilling create chemicals
that can raise a person's colon cancer risk.
- Smoking – long-time tobacco smokers are more likely to develop and die from colon cancer than people who don't smoke. Smoking is also a well-known cause of lung cancer.
- Alcohol use – there is a strong link between moderate to heavy alcohol use and colon cancer. Even light-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with some risk.
Other colon cancer risk factors you cannot change include:
- Age – colon cancer risk increases as a person gets older and is most common after age 50
- A personal history of colorectal polyps or colon cancer – having a history of adenomatous polyps (adenomas) increases a person's risk of developing colon cancer in the future, especially if the polyps are large, if there are many of them or
if any of them show dysplasia which is a term used for abnormal cells in the lining of the colon or rectum that can change into cancer. People who have had their colon cancer completely removed are more likely to develop new cancers in other parts
of the colon and rectum.
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – having ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or IBD for many years increases one's risk of developing colon cancer
- A family history of colon cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Genetics – a very small portion of people with colon cancer have inherited gene mutations known to cause syndromes that can lead to them getting the disease. The most common inherited syndromes linked with colorectal cancers are Lynch syndrome
(hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), but other rarer syndromes can increase colon cancer risk, too.
- Racial and ethnic background – of all racial groups in the United States, those of American Indian/Alaska Native descent have the highest colon cancer incidence rates and mortality rates
- Having type 2 diabetes – both type 2 diabetes and colon cancer share some of the same risk factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity. People with type 2 diabetes also tend to have a less favorable prognosis after a colon cancer diagnosis.
Some studies suggest that receiving previous treatment for certain cancers and working a night shift regularly might raise the risk of colon cancer, but more research is needed.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
A person can have polyps or colon cancer and not know it right away. If you have any of the following colon cancer symptoms, please talk to your doctor immediately:
- 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's not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
How is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed?
Several screening and diagnostic tests are available to find polyps or colon cancer. If you have symptoms or have had positive screening test results, your doctor will recommend any of the following exams and tests below:
- Medical history and physical exam
- Stool tests
- Blood tests
- Diagnostic colonoscopy
- Lab tests of biopsy samples
- Imaging tests, such as CT or CAT scan, ultrasound, MRI scan, chest X-ray or PET scan
Is Colorectal Cancer Hereditary?
About five percent of people with colon cancer have inherited mutations that can cause colon cancer. People who have a parent, sibling or child diagnosed with colon cancer are at increased risk. If you are at risk for colon cancer, talk to your doctor
about the need to start screening before age 45, which tests to take and how often to get tested.
Find an Oncologist in San Antonio
Whether you're concerned about getting colorectal cancer, need more information or have recently received a colon cancer diagnosis, you'll find consistent quality care at Baptist Health System hospitals. Our goal is to help patients achieve better health
for life through compassionate service and experienced care.
Keeping a healthy colon is a journey best taken together. Now is an excellent time to speak with one of our oncologists for proper diagnosis and advice on the best treatment options for your condition. Please call 866-309-2873 or find a doctor here near
your location. If it's an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Please don't delay care. We're here for you always.
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Insurances Accepted and Payment Plan Options
We have made it easier for you to take charge of your heart health and make important healthcare decisions, such as having regular screenings for colon cancer. When you come to us for help, we're ready with all the information you need upfront, including
financial obligations, for your peace of mind.
Baptist Health System offers flexible payment plans that fit your budget through out-of-pocket prices and procedures so that you can focus more on your journey to better health. Visit our pricing information and estimates page for an overview of your
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