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Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know

5 Facts About Colorectal Cancer

  • Colorectal cancer is one of the most curable types of gastrointestinal cancer, if found early. 
  • Adults should begin regular screening at age 50. Those was a family history of colorectal cancer should be screened even earlier. 
  • Screenings should include either a fecal occult test once every year and a sigmoidoscopy every five years, or a colonscopy every 10 years. 
  • If a polyp is found, your doctor will want to monitor you closely. A polyp is a benign growth that could become cancerous if left untreated. 
  • Some forms of colorectal cancer are hereditary

Patient Resources

Featured Health Webinar

Drs. Gearhart and Giardiello

Colon Cancer: Know Your Risk Factors, Symptoms, and the Importance of Screening and Current Treatments

While rates of colon cancer in adults over 50 have been declining, incidence rates in adults younger than 50 years have been increasing. Awareness of symptoms and risk factors is important in detecting the disease early.

Our colorectal cancer experts panel, featuring Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Francis Giardiello, M.D. and colorectal surgeon Susan Gearhart, M.D., discuss risk factors, symptoms, the importance of early screenings and current treatment options.

Watch Video

Ask the Expert: Bashar Safar, M.B.B.S.

Join Johns Hopkins colorectal cancer surgeon Bashar Safar, M.B.B.S. for a Facebook chat on March 25 from noon - 1 p.m. EST to ask your colon-related questions.

Bashar Safar

How common is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer -- cancer occurring anywhere along the colon, from the cecum to the rectum -- is currently the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States behind breast cancer and lung cancer. About 130,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S., and it claims the lives of approximately 56,000 annually. A study of the national trends indicate an increase in the cases of colorectal cancer in adults under age 50, while African-Americans face a substantially increased risk of dying from colorectal cancer. 

Is colon cancer preventable?

Colorectal cancer occurs when the cells that line the colon become abnormal, most often through the growth of a polyp. These polyps, if left alone and untreated, can grow into cancer. Early detection is vital to the prevention of colorectal cancer, and screening is essential to prevention and should be a part of routine care.  A colonoscopy is able to detect and remove any polyps, effectively reducing the risk of colorectal cancer 

Is colon cancer inherited?

A number of factors come into play with regards to the development of colorectal cancer. Approximately 20 percent of colorectal cancer cases originate in people with a family history of the disease. First-degree relatives actually have a two-to-three-fold increased risk of developing colorectal cancer than those with no family history.

People with a family history of colorectal cancer should begin receiving colonoscopies or other screening procedure starting at age 40, or 10 years before the youngest case in the family, whichever comes first. High-risk individuals (those with previous colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or history of colorectal polyps) require screening every two to five years depending on the individual.

The average person should begin undergoing colorectal cancer screening at age 50 or older as recommended by your physician. 

Advancements in Cancer Research

Cooperation between oxygen-poor cancer cells (red) and oxygen-rich ones (green).

"Game Theory" Model Reveals Vulnerable Moments for Metastatic Cancer Cells' Energy Production

Using a mathematical study of strategic decision-making could identify the ideal time to disrupt metastatic cancer cell cooperation and make a tumor more vulnerable to anti-cancer drugs.

Cancer-fighting Strategy Would Harden Cells to Prevent Metastasis

Today’s cancer therapies aim at massacring tumor cells, but what if we instead subtly hardened the cells to prevent them from invading new areas of the body? 

Sugar-Coated Microcapsule Eliminates Toxic Punch of Experimental Anti-Cancer Drug

A sugar-based microshell developed by Johns Hopkins researchers protects the anti-cancer agent 3BrPA drug molecules from disintegrating early and guards healthy tissue from the drug’s toxic effects, such as weight loss, hypothermia and lethal hypoglycemic shock.

Surgery Plus Chemoradiation Linked to Improved Survival Rates for Gastric Cancer Patients

Patients who receive chemoradiation after surgery for gastric cancer survived more than twice as long as those who had surgery followed by only chemotherapy, according to results of a look-back study of more than 500 people.

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