Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth most common cancer in men and women (not counting some kinds of skin cancer) . Fortunately, the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States has been decreasing since the mid-1980s due to increased screening in adults aged 50 and older . Overall, colorectal cancer is highly preventable, and if detected early, it’s also one of the most curable types of cancer
Some early cancers may have signs and symptoms that can be noticed, but that's not always the case. Finding cancer early, when it's small and hasn't spread, often allows for more treatment options. Colorectal cancer doesn’t just appear suddenly. It starts as a small growth on the colon called a polyp, which rarely causes symptoms. If left alone over many years, polyps can grow into cancer. The only way to know it’s there is to look. Regular screening can help identify colorectal polyps and enable their removal before they can develop into cancer and spread.
Colon cancer survival rates improve with early detection and treatment
Regular screening can improve outcomes or even prevent colorectal cancer if detected at an early enough stage. A polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. With screening, doctors can find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer. When cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower .
The localized stage of colorectal cancer includes stages I and II. During this stage, there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the colon or rectum. About 39% of all colorectal cancers are localized and have an 89.9% five-year relative survival rate . Although the five-year survival rate is high at this time, only about 4 out of 10 colorectal cancers are found at this early stage . In most cases, treatment for localized colon cancer is minimal and can be done by removing the polyp or taking out the area with cancer through local excision. Removing part of the colon (partial colectomy) may be needed if the cancer is too big to be removed by local excision.
Regional colon cancer is stage III and means that cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum to nearby structures or lymph nodes. About 35% of all colorectal cancer cases are regional and the five-year survival rate for this stage is 72% . The standard treatment for this stage typically includes surgery to remove the section of the colon with the cancer (partial colectomy) along with nearby lymph nodes, followed by adjuvant chemo. Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be options for people who aren’t healthy enough for surgery.
Stage IV colon cancers have spread from the colon to distant organs and tissues. About 22% of all colorectal cancer cases are distant and the five-year relative survival rate is 14.2% . Colon cancer most often spreads to the liver, but it can also spread to other places like the lungs, brain, abdominal cavity lining, or to distant lymph nodes. Treatment options may vary depending on where the cancer has spread, but they may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or targeted therapy.
Enable regular screening with at-home testing
About 1 in 3 people in the US who should get tested for colorectal cancer have never been screened . This may be because they don't know that regular testing could save their lives from this disease, or due to things like cost and health insurance coverage issues. At-home screening with LetsGetChecked can increase access to colon cancer screening so people can gain timely health insights, enable early detection, and reduce CRC-related mortality.