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Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States.

The great news is that colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.

About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancer is found early and treated are still alive five years later. Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for men and women who are 50 years of age and older. Some people may be at higher risk because of family history of colorectal cancer, bowel disease, or genetic disorders. These individuals should talk to their doctor about screening.

There are several screening tests that are recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force to find polyps or colorectal cancer:

  • High Sensitivity Stool Tests (Fecal Immunochemical Tests): These tests detect blood in the stool. The doctor gives you a test kit. At home, a stick or brush is used to obtain a small amount of stool. The test is returned to the doctor or a lab. If blood is found, more testing such as a colonoscopy should be done. How often: Once a year.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: The doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the lower part of the colon. How often: Every 5 years.
  • Colonoscopy: Similar to sigmoidoscopy but the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. How often: Every 10 years.

Risk Factors

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • 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)
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Low fruit and vegetable intake
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use


Source: South Dakota Department of Health, Workplace Wellness Toolkit