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Patient Support and Education

Why have a colorectal cancer screening?

The large intestine (also called the large bowel), consists of the colon and rectum, which is the final part of your digestive system. Cancer of the lining of the large intestine is called colorectal cancer.

The earlier cancer is found, the better your chances of survival.

If colorectal cancer is found at an early stage, a person's chances of living longer than five years may be as great as 95 percent. If colorectal cancer is found at a late stage, a person may have only a 10% chance of living for five years.

Although colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in the United States, it is one of the few cancers that doctors can prevent.

Most colon cancers start out as small growths (polyps) which form on the lining of the large intestine. Over a period of five to ten years, some of these polyps can become cancers. About 30 percent of people who are screened for colorectal cancer are found to have polyps. Because most polyps—and many colon cancers—have no symptoms, it's very important to have a colorectal cancer screening.

During a colonoscopy (one type of colorectal cancer screening test) a doctor can find and remove polyps in the large intestine. This causes no pain. Finding and removing these polyps dramatically reduces the chances of cancer developing.

Ways to prevent colorectal cancer

In addition to regular screenings, there are other ways to help prevent colorectal cancer:

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep to a regular exercise program (this can be as simple as taking a short walk three times a week).
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Talk with your doctor about vitamins or medications that may help prevent colorectal cancer.

Facts and misperceptions about colorectal cancer

Watch the video below to learn about the facts and misperceptions about colorectal cancer from Dr. Lynn Butterly, Director of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Preparing for your colonoscopy

The preparation instructions differ somewhat depending on your doctor and the location where you are having your colonoscopy. Read the instructions for the location where you are having your colonoscopy:

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