Health Blog

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Screenings Save Lives

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, excluding skin cancers. However, there are ways to prevent this disease.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum – these can also be called colon or rectal cancer, depending on where they begin, because they have many features in common. Cancer begins when cells in the body start to grow out of control, with most colorectal cancers beginning as a growth, or polyp, on the inner lining of the colon or rectum – these growths are called polyps. Not all polyps become cancerous, but some types can evolve into cancer over the course of many years.

Who is at risk?

Many risk factors have been linked to colorectal cancer, most being lifestyle-related, such as diet, weight, and exercise. Some factors that could put an individual at a higher risk of colon or rectal cancer may be:

  • If you are overweight or obese
  • If you are physically inactive
  • If you have a diet high in red and processed meats
  • If you are a smoker
  • If you are a heavy consumer of alcohol

There are lifestyle changes you can make with the help of your primary care practitioner that can lower your risk of colon or rectal cancer. However, there are risk factors that you cannot change, such as:

  • If you have a history of colorectal polyps or cancer
  • If you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • If your family has a history of colorectal polyps or cancer
  • If you have type 2 diabetes


Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause immediate symptoms. However, you should always be on the lookout for the following as they can be a sign of colorectal cancer:

  • Blood in or on your stool
  • Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing in the stool
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
  • Losing weight without cause

Colorectal cancer symptoms are also similar to symptoms caused by other health issues, such as infection, hemorrhoids, and IBS. Therefore, speaking with your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms is crucial.

Tests & Screenings

Screening is vital for detecting early causes of colorectal cancer. The first step is to speak with your primary care doctor to assess your medical history, risk factors, and age and to begin (or catch up with) your regular screenings, including colonoscopy. Colonoscopies are used to find precancerous polyps, which can be removed during the test and may find cancer early when it is most treatable.

The CDC recommends regular screening beginning at age 45 for those at average risk. Screenings are for patients without symptoms, so early detection can be made, and possible tumors may be prevented. You may need to be tested earlier than 45, or more often than other people, if you have:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • 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)

Colorectal Screenings at CCP

Our CCP surgeons from Community Care General Surgery and Dr. Arbind Kumar from CCP’s Capital Region Gastroenterology are highly trained and skilled at performing upper and lower endoscopies. These procedures can be done for many patients in the comfort and convenience of our Quad A (accredited) Endoscopy and Surgical Care Suite in CCP’s Latham Health Park at 713 Troy Schenectady Road, Suite 305. The Endoscopy Suite is highly advantageous for low-risk patients. It’s a non-hospital, private setting, meaning a lower copay for patients than a hospital. It also has ample free parking and comfortable pre- and post-procedure areas, and it’s easy to navigate for patients and their families. As a CCP patient, your primary care provider will have timely access to the full report following your colonoscopy directly on CCP’s shared electronic health record system. If something is found upon screening, CCP also offers numerous treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation oncology, or a combination of these options.

If you have questions or concerns regarding colorectal cancer and services, we can connect you with the right physicians and the proper treatment. Contact one of our offices specializing in colonoscopies: Capital Region Gastroenterology or Community Care General Surgery.

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