Although a colon cancer screening might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, it is still extremely important. There are far more reasons why you absolutely should commit to regular colon cancer screenings, than reasons not to. Here is an overview of the many compelling reasons why colon cancer screenings are something that you should be a priority.

The Benefits of Colon Cancer Screenings

Colon cancer treatment has come a long way over the years as continuous advancements have made it much more manageable when it’s caught early on. The key to beating colon cancer is knowing whether you have it or not as early as reasonably possible. By agreeing to colon cancer screenings on a regular basis, you can stay on top of things so that if you contract it, you’ll have the vantage ground of prescience.

Preventing colon cancer is of utmost importance because it plays such a key role in beating the disease.

They Are Easy to Perform and There Is Very Little Risk

One of the most commonly used forms of colon cancer screening is a colonoscopy. These procedures are relatively easy to perform with a very low risk of any adverse effects. Overall, the benefits of having a colonoscopy at regular intervals are much more favorable than the consequences of neglecting your screenings. It is recommended that people who are considered to be at average risk of contracting the disease should have a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50.

It’s one of the rites of passage to middle age, and it’s nothing to worry about. Colon cancer screenings help to keep you healthy and safe by ensuring early detection.

You Owe it to Yourself and to Your Family

When it comes down to it, you owe it not only to yourself but also to your family to get screened for colon cancer. One of the most painful situations is one in which there is nothing that could have been done to prevent a potentially fatal disease. In these situations, when no amount of effort could possibly help it leaves families feeling helpless as they watch their loved one struggle in vain.

More painful still, however, are the cases in which the disease could have been prevented quite easily and wasn’t. It’s far better to undergo the mild discomfort and inconveniences of colon cancer screenings than to hope for the best and wind up hearing that you have only a few months to live. In these cases, loved ones can be unforgiving as they seek to place blame on someone in their grief. They will hold you at fault which only adds salt to the wound as no one will ever be harder on you in such a situation than yourself.

Let’s face it, no one knows exactly how much time on this Earth they will be blessed with, but by going to your colon cancer screening tests, you will gain precious knowledge that could save your life.

Does Your Family Have a History of Colon Cancer?

Folks who are considered to be of average risk of contracting colon cancer are encouraged to have a colonoscopy every 10 years or so. If however, someone in your family had colon or rectal cancer, you will be considered to be at a higher risk and will need more frequent screenings.

You should know that if someone in your family had colon cancer, it does not automatically mean that you will succumb to the same disease. Although you will certainly have a higher chance of contracting colon cancer at some point, as long as you’ve been going to your screenings you will be able to catch it early and defeat it much more easily.

For those of you who have had a family member with colon cancer, screening tests like colonoscopies are your safeguard against the disease. Don’t look at a colonoscopy as something to dread, look at it as a way to protect yourself instead.

On the surface, you might be thinking that you can’t afford to have regular colon cancer screenings. Fortunately, colon cancer screenings are exempt from co-pays under the Affordable Care Act.




Numerous challenges present themselves when a patient chooses to get screened for colorectal cancer (CRC), but we know very little about why patients may opt-out of getting screened. 

A survey mailed to 660 patients aged 50-75 years old from the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcome Research Network practices in June-July 2005 posed an open-ended question regarding what the most important barrier to CRC screening might be. Approximately 74% of the individuals who responded noted fear as the most important barrier to CRC screening. According to Nagelhout et al, one of the most common patient-reported barriers is fear, which was observed among 27.6% of responders. Other reasons included:

  • absence of physician advice
  • lack of time, lack of awareness
  • limited information

Patients’ outlook toward the screening procedure and the uncertainties surrounding it seemed to influence their decision to not get screened. Many individuals in the recommended CRC screening age range either lack awareness about why they need to get tested or they believe they don’t need to be screened because they feel ‘fine’.

Fear and anxiety concerning CRC screening is equally prevalent across different racial and ethnic groups. A series of studies suggest fear to serve as the most common barrier in CRC screening. Many patients expressed concern about getting infected with AIDS as a result of a medical device being inserted into their rectum. Several were reluctant to participate due to fear of anticipated pain, while others felt apprehensive about the preparation needed prior to a colonoscopy. Patients also expressed concern about being diagnosed with cancer after getting screened, fear of complications during the screening, and having an overall fear of getting a medical test done.

A significant gender-based difference has also been identified with respect to CRC screening. Women are far more likely to list fear as a barrier primarily due to negative past experiences pertaining to sexual abuse.

Health care providers need to gain a better understanding of barriers from the patient’s perspective, including psychological barriers, as well as what can be done to eliminate them. As noted by Jones et al, patients believe the motivation to overcome fears relies on how passionately physicians advocate for CRC screening. Patients felt that physicians should reiterate and express the importance of CRC screening while remaining empathetic. Above all, physicians need to be mindful that many patients may need to reach a level of comfort before they agree to be screened.


The Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF) has been invited to present a poster at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Gastrointestinal Cancer. The event will be held virtually, November 14-15, 2020.

CCF will be presenting findings from its Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer Virtual Summit, held in April 2020, where researchers and cancer care providers shared their experiences with colorectal cancer (CRC)—particularly early-age onset CRC—care during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 323 attendees, presenters focused on changes in screening and surveillance policies, modifying oncological and surgical care, and using alternative care delivery models such a telehealth, among other things, due to the pandemic. Discussions also touched upon the importance of the emotional well-being of clinical care providers.

Be on a lookout for the full meeting report, which will be released on the CCF website in November.

Colon cancer and rectal cancer, commonly grouped together as colorectal cancer (CRC), is on the rise among individuals under the age of 50, with the most notable increase observed amongst individuals aged 20-39 years, according to the American Cancer Society.

Recently, award-winning actor and “Black Panther” star, Chadwick Boseman, lost his 4-year long battle to colon cancer at age 43. Boseman’s tragic death provides an opportunity to convey the urgent message of how colon cancer can impact a young person’s health, even if they are younger than the suggested screening age for those at average risk–usually 50 years.

Colon and rectal cancer remain the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., and the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer globally. In 2020, an estimated one million lives will be lost to CRC across the globe.

The main difference between colon cancer and rectal cancer is the location of the cancerous lesion(s). The last 12 centimeters of the large intestine is identified as the rectum, while the rest of the large intestine is classified as the colon. Differentiating between the two requires the help of a doctor and advanced imaging technology. Identifying whether a person has colon or rectal cancer is also important to identify the treatment strategy needed to fight the cancer.

Colon cancer has about a 2% risk of recurrence. Rectal cancer, on the other hand, has about a 20% chance of recurrence due to the absence of a protective layer called the serosa that exists in the colon. Rectal cancer even poses a greater risk of spreading to surrounding organs—a process known as metastasis. Metasis can complicate treatment as the cancerous cells break away from the original tumor and travel to other areas in the body, most commonly the liver. This process will also advance the cancer to stage IV, the most aggressive stage.

Recent trends indicating the steepest increase in incidence rates amongst younger age groups means young adults should pay careful attention to their gastrointestinal health. Though older age and aging are risk factors for CRC, colon and rectal cancers can both be attributed to varying lifestyle influences including diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption. Specifically, a low-fat diet high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables is best recommended for reducing the onset of colon and rectal cancer. Additionally, a colonoscopy is best recommended for identifying colon and rectal cancer and is often called the “gold standard,” due to the ability to prevent 90% of CRCs.

Most importantly, visit a doctor if any of the following symptoms occur as they may be a sign of CRC:

  • Sudden or unexpected weight loss
  • Abnormal bowel movements that last for more than a few days
  • Bloody or dark stools
  • Cramping or pain in the abdomen
  • Weakness or fatigue

Prevention and detection are simultaneous in most cases, which is why it is important to “check your butt” as early as you can!


When reading about colon and rectal cancer, it can quickly become confusing as to which one is which and what the difference between them is. It becomes even more difficult to understand when you throw colorectal cancer into the mix. So what is the difference between all of these terms? Are there different screening and treatment methods for each of them? You’re about to find out, here is the definitive guide on the differences between colon and rectal cancer.

How to Distinguish Colon Cancer From Rectal Cancer and Vice Versa

Many references make the difference between colon and rectal cancer sound complicated and hard to identify, but in reality, they are quite distinct. Although both diseases share many common factors, there is a primary distinction that can be used to tell them apart. That distinction is the exact location in which the cancer began. If the origin point of the cancer is in the rectum, then it is considered to be rectal cancer and referred to as such. If on the other hand, the point of origin is farther up the large intestine, it will be designated as colon cancer.

It might seem strange to think of it in this way, but it’s important to note that the rectum comprises the last 12 centimeters of the colon. The rectum and the large intestine while separate, are still essentially parts of the same organ. As such, they are very much connected so if cancer starts in the rectum, it will inevitably spread throughout the rest of your colon if it’s not detected on time and properly treated.

So what about colorectal cancer? Is that a type of colon cancer or rectal cancer. Truth be told, it is neither and it is both. Colorectal cancer is a broad term that can be used to refer to both colon and rectal cancer. Although colon and rectal cancer are not the exact same disease, they are still referred to as colorectal cancer as a group.

What Are the Symptoms

Both colon and rectal cancer share several common symptoms that are remarkably similar. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that you tell your Doctor and schedule a thorough screening test like a colonoscopy.

Seeing red, black. Dark-colored spots in your stool are a potential symptom of colon and or rectal cancer. Any of these colors, when present in stool can indicate that there is blood in the stool which is something that you should tell your Doctor about right away.

Constipation, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain are also potential warning signs that you should tell your Doctor about especially when accompanied by fatigue.

Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

When it comes to treating colon cancer versus rectal cancer there are some important differences that are worth noting. Although these types of cancers are similar, the treatment strategy is somewhat unique.

Rectal cancer is considered more dangerous because of its proximity to neighboring organs. To that effect, rectal cancer treatments typically start off with chemotherapy or targeted radiation.

Colon cancer, on the other hand, is generally treated by performing surgery. Although the treatment for colon cancer usually starts with surgery it is often necessary to follow up with chemotherapy to eradicate the disease more thoroughly.

Although the treatments for colon and rectal cancer may differ, the fact that preventative screenings are key to early detection remains the same. By screening for them both, colon and rectal cancer will be easier to fight when you have the strategic advantage of early detection.

The Big Picture

There you have it, whether you’re medically interested in it or if you’re trying to win an argument on the subject at dinner, you now know the exact difference between colon and rectal cancer. In all seriousness, it really is important that you learn the difference early on so that if you suspect that you have one or the other, you won’t lose time reading information that pertains to the wrong one.

When it comes to any type of cancer be it colon, rectal, or any other type of cancer, preventative screenings are crucial. The more aggressively you screen for it, the less likely it is that you will have much or any trouble defeating it should you receive a diagnosis.

Names and semantics aside, colon, rectal, and colorectal cancer can be defeated, especially when you are screening for them. Preventative screenings are your best defense against any of these cancers and can buy you decades of life that would otherwise have been lost unnecessarily to the disease. Instead of letting colorectal cancer sneak up on you, turn the tables and sneak up on it instead with preventative screenings!




Recent findings in a study published by American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) suggest that the presence of periodontal disease is associated with a slightly higher risk of developing colorectal precursor lesions, which include serrated polyps and adenomas.

Data on tooth loss and periodontal disease was obtained from the Nurses’ Health Study (1992-2002) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1992-2010). 17,904 women and 24,582 men were included in the sample size of the study. Data regarding polyp diagnosis was obtained through self-reported questionnaires and later confirmed through medical records. The data were also adjusted for smoking and other related risk factors that lead to periodontal disease and colorectal cancer. The study found that:

  • Individuals with periodontal disease had about a 17% increased risk of developing serrated polyps
  • Individuals with periodontal disease had about an 11% increased risk of developing conventional adenomas
  • Individuals who have lost four or more teeth presented a 20% increased risk of developing serrated polyps

Though the research furthers scientific understanding of the interaction of oral health and gut health, additional research is needed to explore the extent of the correlation and how this influences the risk of colorectal cancer for a definitive conclusion. A previous study published by the International Journal of Cancer suggests that the correlation between periodontal disease and carcinogenesis in the gut may be attributed to the increase in systemic inflammation, thus increasing immune dysregulation and affecting gut microbiota. The study also mentions that positive associations between periodontal disease and other forms of cancers such as lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer have been reported.

Colorectal cancer is largely preventable given that precursor lesions can be detected and removed. Individuals should regularly monitor their oral health and speak to their medical providers about family history regarding periodontal disease and colorectal cancer to prevent early onset of colorectal cancer.



Chadwick Boseman

The Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF) is heartbroken to learn of the passing of a superhero, Chadwick Boseman. Boseman’s life was tragically cut short on August 28 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, the nation’s second deadliest and third most commonly diagnosed cancer. “On behalf of the thousands of patients, caregivers, clinicians, and researchers who we represent, the Colon Cancer Foundation would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the Boseman family and our support to the millions of people who were touched by Chadwick.” said Cindy R. Borassi, Interim President. 

Chadwick Boseman inspired generations through his singular performances in films such as 42, Marshall, and, of course, the Oscar-nominated Black Panther. Only after his death did the world learn that he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, the same year he debuted as King T’Challa in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Everyone who watched him on screen knew that Chadwick Boseman was an outstanding actor. Many people also knew he was a social justice advocate and an amazing role model. Now we realize that he was also a real-life superhero, showing us what we are capable of achieving no matter what the circumstance. 

Chadwick Boseman’s death tragically demonstrates the alarming increase in the rate of young people between the ages of 20-49 being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Since 2014, CCF has hosted our annual Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer (EAO-CRC) Summit, the nation’s only interdisciplinary event that brings together leading clinicians and scientists, as well as EAO-CRC survivors and caregivers from across the globe. The program provides extensive opportunities for participants to advance their understanding of the rapidly increasing incidence of CRC among young adults under 50 years of age in the U.S. and abroad. We encourage you to check out the executive summaries of our past Summits to learn more about EAO-CRC: https:/ 

Boseman said in a 2018 interview, “You should be the hero in your own story.” The Colon Cancer Foundation has been encouraging people to be their own heroes and heroines since 2008 by raising awareness and spreading the word that colorectal cancer is treatable and beatable with early detection and screening.

As we continue to work towards A World Without Colorectal Cancer™, we encourage you to “be the hero in your own story” and #CheckItForChadwick. To donate in Chadwick’s memory using the following link: 


When it comes to colon cancer screenings, it pays to be informed. The more information you have on it, the more well prepared you will be. You’ll also have less stress because you will know more about what to expect. Here are some helpful colon cancer screening guidelines to help familiarize yourself with the details so that you can make decisions in confidence.

Understanding Colon Cancer

When considering colon cancer screening guidelines, it’s important to understand how colon cancer works. This disease can develop along any of the 5 sections of the colon which include the transverse colon, ascending colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum. That’s a lot of ground to cover, which is why colonoscopies are so popular as a screening method for colon cancer. Colonoscopies are arguably one of the most thorough and effective types of colon cancer screenings available.

What are the Risks?

The risk of forgoing colon cancer screenings goes up over time. By going to your screenings without fail, the risks will be much lower and you will not have to worry as much. It’s important to note that colon cancer screenings should not be looked at as a bad thing. Although it is perfectly natural to be nervous about being screened and hearing the results it’s important to remember that

Early Warning Signs to Watch Out For

In addition to going to your regular screenings, there are some early warning signs to watch out for that can help you detect colon cancer before it has a chance to dig in. One of the most visually apparent of these early warning signs is sudden and unexplained weight loss. This doesn’t mean that you have to worry about colon cancer every time you lose a pound or two. Generally, a loss of 10 pounds over a period of 6 months would warrant a thorough screening like a colonoscopy.

Alternatively, if you know that someone in your family has contracted colon cancer before, you need to tell your Doctor so that they can set up an appropriately aggressive screening schedule. Having a family member with colon cancer is one of the earliest warning signs of all and it’s one that you should take especially seriously. Don’t panic or fret, just be mindful that you’ll have to undergo colon cancer screenings much earlier and more frequently than others.

Typically it is recommended that anyone that has a family member with colon cancer should be screened before the age of 45 rather than after reaching the age of 45. This will give you a much higher chance of catching any signs of colon cancer early and nipping it in the bud before it can do any damage.

Regardless of whether your family has a history of colon cancer or not, if you are diagnosed with having a large polyp or several polyps, you should have a colonoscopy. If adenomatous polyps with a low-grade abnormality are discovered over the course of your colonoscopy it is highly recommended that you have another colonoscopy in 5 years’ time.

Additional Screening Guidelines and Things to Watch Out for

For those of you who have had colorectal surgery, you will need to have a colonoscopy 3 years from the date of your surgery and then another colonoscopy 5 years after that. This will help ensure that you won’t be in for any unwelcome surprises and will catch it early enough to defeat with ease should it ever return.

Generally the very young are not require to be screened for colon cancer unless they have something concerning in their family medical history such as familial adenomatous polyposis. It is recommended that individuals with a family history of familial adenomatous polyposis should have either an annual flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy between the ages of 10 and 12. Given the young age of such patients, a full colonoscopy might be more risk than it’s worth in this case as sigmoidoscopies are considerably less invasive.

Finally, anyone with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer in their family should be screened for colon cancer by age 20-25 or 2 years before their immediate family member’s colon cancer diagnosis, whichever comes first.

When it Comes to Colon Cancer it Pays to be Aggressive

The single best weapon against colon cancer is to be aggressive about screenings and preventative medicine. Colon cancer has a bad habit of sneaking up on people which is why it’s so important to remain vigilant.

Remember, if you catch it early, you won’t have nearly as hard of a time getting rid of it and won’t have to worry about it as much. You have the power to stop colon cancer in its tracks, as long as you keep getting screened for it.



A recently published white paper by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) titled “Roadmap for the Future of Colorectal Cancer Screening in the United States” states that the development of structured organized screening programs is vital to achieving target colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates and reductions in CRC morbidity and mortality. The paper includes information shared at the AGA’s Center for GI Innovation and Technology’s consensus conference in December 2018, which outlined the following priorities:

  • Identify barriers to screening uptake
  • Assess the efficacy of available screening diagnostic methods
  • Consider the potential integration of novel diagnostic approaches into screening and surveillance paradigms


The paper highlights the following strategies:

Modifications to CRC Screening to Improve Uptake and Outcomes

Although over 1,700 organizations across the 50 states signed onto the “80% by 2018” initiative announced by the National Colorectal Cancer Round Table (NCCRT) in 2014, one-quarter of eligible Americans are yet to undergo CRC screening. Organized screening offers an opportunity for screening improvements by the use of multiple strategies, such as defined target populations, timely access and follow-up, and systematic opportunities for shared decision-making between patients and clinicians. It can also improve efficiency by incorporating noninvasive testing such as annual mailed fecal immunochemical (FIT) tests and colonoscopy alternatives like stool testing. Multiple studies have shown that offering stool testing as an option, in addition to colonoscopy, increases screening uptake, however a diagnostic colonoscopy is still necessary to confirm positive noninvasive test results.

Racial, socioeconomic, and geographic health care disparities also limit screening efficacy. African American and Hispanic American communities and individuals in rural areas in particular face screening barriers, accounting for 42% of the disparity in CRC incidence and 19% of the disparity in CRC mortality between black and white individuals.

The following strategies were discussed to resolve these issues:

  • Incorporate adjunct noninvasive testing to improve screening rates
  • Minimize the ineffective practice of performing re-screening and surveillance colonoscopy sooner than recommended by guidelines
  • Reconsider surveillance strategies for individuals with a history of adenomatous polyps to prevent constraining colonoscopy resources


Continued Development of Noninvasive and Minimally Invasive screening Tests

The paper states than an ideal, noninvasive test would “identify lesions with high short-term potential to progress to CRC and should do so with high sensitivity and specificity in a convenient, low-risk, low-cost, and operator-independent manner” that is easy to complete and should achieve high uptake among individuals who are eligible for screening. While an ideal test is yet to be developed, the FIT test and a blood test currently face the least resistance from patients. The researchers propose the development of a noninvasive test that is capable of detecting advanced adenomas and advanced serrated lesions while also being minimally invasive and easy-to-use with a one-time sensitivity and specificity of a minimum of 90%.


Improved Personal Risk Assessment for Optimal Programmatic Screening

Current risk assessment guidelines focus on familial and personal colorectal neoplasia risk, but do not acknowledge additional factors such as sex, race, smoking, body mass index, and environmental factors. Family history can be challenging to obtain due to a lack of patient awareness and the health care provider’s limited ability to derive and record the information. The researchers have proposed using patient portals with integrated electronic health record to ensure updated and accurate family health history data and to allow health care providers the ability to accurately assess the patient’s risk by looking at the data in the portal, irrespective of their geographic location. Improved personal risk assessment would help health care professionals select the appropriate CRC screening test method. For example, individuals with a higher risk of advanced adenoma or CRC would be directed to a colonoscopy, while individuals with a lower risk would be directed to a less-invasive screening method.


Although initiatives like the 80% by 2018 proposed by the NCCRT are a good step towards increased screening rates, the development of organized screening programs is necessary to further these efforts even more. The desired goal of these screening efforts is testing that is available to at-risk individuals, noninvasive testing methods that are highly accurate and easy to use, increased screening uptake, and reduction in CRC incidence.










A large cohort study that evaluated Swedish family inpatient and outpatient cancer registries found that those who had diabetes had an increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC)—the magnitude of risk was similar to having a family history of CRC.

The study had a long timeline and follow-up was conducted between 1964-2015. The 12,614,256 individuals included in the study were born after 1931; 559,375 of them had diabetes and 162,226 had CRC. The authors queried the risk of developing CRC among those who had diabetes and found that:

  • 9-fold greater risk of CRC before 50 years among those diagnosed with diabetes before 50 years (range, 1.6-2.3)
  • 9-fold higher risk of CRC before age 50 years among those diagnosed with diabetes before 50 years who also had a family history of CRC (range, 4.1-12)
  • Lifetime risk of CRC before age 50 years among diabetic patients (0.4%) was similar to those with just a family history of CRC (0.5%). It was double that of the average population (0.2%).

This study confirms the positive association between early-onset diabetes and early-onset CRC and makes a case for earlier CRC screening among young adults with diabetes.

Results from the South Australian Young Onset (SAYO) CRC study identified a similar correlation between personal and family history of diabetes and CRC risk. The study cohort included 50 unrelated young adults up to age 55 years diagnosed with CRC (23-54 years), and 253 controls without CRC (18-54 years). Personal and family history of diabetes was documented in this entire population. The study found:

  • 24% of CRC patients also suffered from type II diabetes compared with 5% of the control group
  • 51% of young adults with CRC had at least one first-degree relative with type II diabetes
  • All patients with a personal history of type II diabetes also had first-degree relatives with type II diabetes
  • 44% of CRC patients under 45 years and 60% of CRC patients 45-54 years had a first-degree relative with type II diabetes

These findings create a very strong case for raising awareness among young adults with diabetes of their increased risk of early-onset CRC, especially if there is a family history of diabetes, so they can initiate CRC screening earlier than the USPSTF recommendation of 50 years.