FAQ - Colon Cancer
1) What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is any cancer that occurs in the large intestine, which is made up of the colon and the rectum. It is often referred to as colorectal (CRC) or large bowel cancer.
2) How do most colon cancers start?
Most colon cancers start as small growths in the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps and can bleed. Over time, some polyps turn into cancer.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and the third for women in New Brunswick. Approximately 650 men and women are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, and about 215 die from the disease.
Colon cancer grows slowly and often has no warning signs or symptoms until the cancer is more advanced. Common signs of colon cancer include:
• Rectal bleeding, or any sign of blood after bowel movements.
• Lasting change in bowel habits such as: Diarrhea or constipation for more than a few weeks; Stools which are consistently more narrow than usual; Feeling that you cannot completely empty your bowel.
• Unexplained weight loss, tiredness, or exhaustion. Go to more information on healthy living.
If you have any of these warning signs for colon cancer, please see your primary health-care provider (doctor or nurse).
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors:
• Age over 50
• Family history*
• Genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome
• Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
• Ethnic background – people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) descent
Modifiable Risk Factors:
• Diet high in red meat
• Diet high in processed meat
• Physical inactivity
*Family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) may be the result of heredity, presence of similar risk factors or both.
You can lower your risk for colorectal cancer by:
• getting screened regularly
• eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables
• maintaining a healthy weight
• not smoking
• limiting alcohol consumption
• taking vitamin D supplements
Go to the Healthy Living website for more information on healthy living.
If you have questions or concerns about colon cancer, please speak with your primary health-care provider (doctor or nurse) or visit www.cancer.ca