Diagnosing colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is relatively common. According to recent U.S. statistics, one in 21 men and one in 23 women will get colorectal cancer.

The good news is, colorectal cancer is also preventable. It's one of the few cancers that can be detected and treated at its "pre-cancer" stage during screening.

Even if you are not diagnosed early, we offer the latest treatments for advanced colorectal cancer that has spread to other organs.

The signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:

  • A change in bowel habits that lasts for a few days

  • Blood in the stool that may look red or dark

  • Stools that are narrower than usual

  • Abdominal pain or cramps

  • Frequent gas pains or fullness

  • Weight loss for no known reason

  • Fatigue and/or weakness

  • Vomiting

 Call your doctor if you have any symptoms of colorectal cancer.

Genetic testing and counseling services

Today, the fight against colorectal cancer often includes genetic testing.

If you have family members or close relatives with a health history of colorectal cancer, you may carry a gene that puts you at higher risk of developing it yourself. Several types of colorectal cancer are hereditary, meaning they can be passed down from one generation of family members to the next. These include "hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer" (more commonly known as Lynch syndrome) and "familial adenomatous polyposis."

If you've tested positive for one of these genes, you will likely need screening exams more often (and at a younger age) than most people.

The Christ Hospital Health Network offers genetic testing and counseling services. Our cancer care team also has experience screening for, and treating, hereditary forms of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer screening and prevention

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we're passionate about preventing colorectal cancer. Every year, our doctors perform thousands of screening tests that can detect cancer early—and save lives.

There are several screening tests for colorectal cancer. We look for abnormal growths (polyps) inside the colon and rectum. Most cases of colorectal cancer are caused by polyps that become cancerous. Our doctors can remove polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer.

Your doctor may ask you to start having screening tests if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are 50 or older, and are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • You have a family history of colorectal cancer.

  • You've tested positive for a gene that increases your risk of getting colorectal cancer.

  • You have another disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, which increases your risk of getting colorectal cancer.

If your screening test shows signs of cancer, your doctor will use other tools to confirm a diagnosis. These tools may include imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI.

Your doctor will also need to "stage" your cancer. Staging is finding out how much cancer is in your body and where it's located. This helps doctors plan treatment options and assess your outlook (prognosis).

It's important to talk to your doctor about colorectal screening. If you do not have a primary care provider, click here to find a provider with The Christ Hospital Physicians - Primary Care.