Why Get Tested?

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Canada and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadians, resulting in over 9,000 deaths annually. Regular screening for colorectal cancer can reduce not only mortality, but incidence as well, with the early detection and removal of precancerous polyps.

Early detection of colorectal cancer can save your life.
Precancerous polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer do not always present symptoms, therefore it is very important that patients be screened regularly, even when feeling fine and without symptoms.

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The Facts About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, also sometimes called colon cancer, is most commonly characterized as the growth and spread of malignant (cancerous) polyps in the large intestine, large bowel or rectum.

The cells lining the colon or rectum can sometimes become abnormal and divide rapidly. These cells can form benign (non-cancerous) tumours or growths called polyps. Although not all polyps will develop into colorectal cancer, colorectal cancer almost always develops from a polyp. Over a period of many years, a polyp's cells may undergo a series of DNA changes that cause them to become malignant (cancerous). At first, these cancer cells are contained on the surface of a polyp, but can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum where they can gain access to blood and lymph vessels. Once this happens, the cancer can spread to lymph nodes and other organs, such as the liver or lungs.

Colon Rectum Diagram

Who Should Get Tested?

Cancer Care Ontario recommends that men and women over the age of 50 be screened for colorectal cancer every two years. A doctor may also recommend screening for patients younger than 50 if they are identified to be at a higher risk.

Risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
  • You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.

For more information on colorectal cancer, visit www.colorectal-cancer.ca.

Special thanks to the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

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