Colorectal Cancer Awareness

What is colorectal cancer?

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer originates in either the colon or the rectum. Owing to their striking similarities, these cancers are often grouped under a single term. Both the colon and the rectum constitute the large intestine, an essential part of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. Within this series of hollow organs, abnormal growths called polyps can form on the inner lining. While not all polyps become cancerous, some have the potential to develop into colorectal cancer over time. Keep reading to learn more about symptoms, prevention methods, treatments, and types of colorectal cancer!


Types of Colorectal Cancer

There are 2 main types of colorectal cancers, and a few other types that are more rare.

Colorectal Adenocarcinoma

The prefix “Adeno-” means “gland,” and carcinoma refers to cancer which grows within epithelial cells, those which line the inner and outer surfaces of our body. This is the most common type of colorectal cancer. Some subtypes of adenocarcinomas, such as signet ring and mucinous, may have a worse prognosis than others.


Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

The neuroendocrine system contains cells that function similarly to nerve cells in some aspects and resemble hormone-producing endocrine cells in others. The digestive system contains more neuroendocrine cells than any other part of the body. These cells may sometimes malfunction and overgrow, causing tumors to form. These are known as neuroendocrine, or carcinoid, tumors.

GCT on Body

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs):

There are quite a few other types of colorectal cancers, though much rarer than the previous two. GISTs are one example. This type of colorectal cancer originates from cells known as interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs). Mutations in certain genes are often the cause of development for GISTs. Symptoms may also look different than those of the previous two types.



Colorectal cancer symptoms can differ based on the specific type. Here are some of the typical signs to watch for:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as more frequent diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Ongoing discomfort in the belly area, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty all the way during a bowel movement
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Increased volume of urine
  • Palpable mass or swelling in the abdomen


Taking early and consistent preventative measures is vital in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. These steps not only help in early detection but can significantly improve treatment outcomes and survival rates.

Get Screened

Regular screening is a critical tool in the fight against colorectal cancer. It’s essential because it can detect cancer at an early stage, when it’s most treatable, and in some cases, can prevent cancer altogether by identifying and removing precancerous polyps. The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer start regular screenings at age 45. However, those with a family history of the disease or other risk factors may need to begin screening earlier.


Follow a Healthy Diet

Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provide essential nutrients and antioxidants that can help protect against cancer. Conversely, consuming high amounts of red and processed meats, as well as low-fiber foods, has been linked to an increased risk of developing this disease. Additionally, a diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber can aid in maintaining a healthy weight, which is another important factor in colorectal cancer prevention.

Healthy food

Stay Active

Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial since obesity is a known risk factor for this type of cancer. Exercise also promotes healthy digestion and can improve gut health, further lowering the risk. Additionally, physical activity is believed to decrease the growth of polyps, which are precursors to colorectal cancer. Experts recommend engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week. This can include activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or any form of exercise that raises the heart rate.

Active people

Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for many cancers, including colorectal cancer, as it introduces harmful carcinogens into the body. These substances can damage the lining of the colon and rectum, increasing the risk of cancer. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients and may produce harmful byproducts during metabolism.

Quit smoking graphic


The treatment choices can differ based on the type of colorectal cancer, its location, the stage it’s at, and the patient’s overall health. Here are some general treatment options:

  • Surgery: There are many different surgeries which may include removing a small part of the bowel lining, removing all or part of the bowel, or to remove a bowel blockage.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment option can help to slow or completely stop the growth of cancer cells.
  • Radiation: This treatment can damage cells by destroying their genetic material and preventing them from growing and dividing.


Colorectal Cancer Alliance

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is the nation’s leading nonprofit dedicated to colorectal cancer. Together with a nation of passionate allies, they advocate for prevention, magnify support, and accelerate research to end this disease.

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Colon Cancer Coalition

The Colon Cancer Coalition is a national coalition of people determined to end colorectal cancer deaths by increasing screening and educating others about the signs and symptoms of this treatable disease. They want all people to understand the risk factors and get the right screening at the right time.

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