According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the United States and the second most common cause of cancer deaths for both men and women. While recent trends show a drop in new cases of colorectal cancer for older adults, new cases among adults younger than age 50 have increased from 1% to 2% in the last three decades. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and colorectal cancer experts at UC San Diego Health are available to talk about the latest in research, treatment options and prevention measures.

When colorectal cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate is nearly 90%, but only about 4 out of 10 colorectal cancer cases are found in this stage. Screening rates in San Diego County are still not where they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those most impacted by colorectal cancer continue to be communities of color. The Hispanic community has lower colorectal screening rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the county, and the incidence rates among Hispanic men have surpassed those of non-Hispanic men.

Important screening information to know during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month includes:

  • Screening for those of average risk (e.g., healthy and no family history of colorectal cancer) should begin at age 45.
  • There are several options available to effectively screen against colorectal cancer, including a self-administered stool-based test, such as a highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT), completed at home or in a clinic annually and a colonoscopy performed every 10 years.
  • Those aged 46 to 75 should continue regular colorectal cancer screening.
  • For individuals ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on personal preference, overall health and prior screening history.
  • Those age 85 and older should no longer be screened.

Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, blood in stool, abdominal pain, and unintended weight loss.

For patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer, treatment options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Ongoing clinical trials are exploring new therapies and combinations of therapies to expand treatment options for patients, such as trials being conducted at UC San Diego Health that are looking at the combination of immunotherapy and chemoradiation.

Learn more about colorectal cancer care at UC San Diego Health.

Background: According to the 2022-2023 U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” survey, UC San Diego Health is ranked 20th for cancer care, among the nation’s top 50 programs, out of more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide. Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Diego County, the highest possible rating for a U.S. cancer center.