Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be referred to separately as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where it starts. Most colorectal cancers develop slowly over several years.

Before a cancer develops, a growth of tissue or tumor usually begins as a non-cancerous polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. A tumor is abnormal tissue and can be benign or malignant. A polyp is a benign, non-cancerous tumor. Some polyps can change into cancer but not all do. The chance of a polyp changing into a cancer depends upon the kind of polyp it is.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States combined of both men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 93,000 cases of colon cancer and 39,000 cases of rectal cancer in 2015 and expected to cause more than 49,000 deaths in 2015.

Screening for the prevention and early detection of colon cancer is crucial to improve outcomes. Colon screenings have led to a decline in the number of deaths from the disease over the past 20 years. When polyps or cancer are found in their early stages, the cure rate is close to 100 percent. Unfortunately fewer than half of Americans over the age of 50 have had any type of colon-cancer screening test.

St.Vincent offers colon kits that allows patients to test for abnormalities from the comfort of their own homes. Colon kits are mailed with simple instructions along with return postage. The patient collects a small stool sample from the comfort of his or her home, and submits the sample for testing using the enclosed postage. If an abnormality is identified, St.Vincent will follow-up and help you schedule a primary care appointment to determine the appropriate treatment options.

St.Vincent Cancer Care is offering a free home colon kit as part of March's Check Up 13. If you are at least 50-years-old or are an African American at least 45-years-old and have one of the following risk factors, you may be at risk and should consider completing the colon screening kit:

  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Personal medical history of: colorectal polyps; breast, uterine and/or ovarian cancer; ulcerative colitis and/or Crohn's disease; inflammatory bowel disease
  • Sustained period of bleeding with bowel movements or change in bowel habits
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Type 2 diabetes
The American Cancer Society Guidelines recommends testing for fecal occult blood every year after age 50.

**Promotion only valid for Indiana residents.