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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March 3, 2022

The NYCDCC Welfare Fund and MSK Direct, a program that offers you guided access to expert cancer care, have once again collaborated to bring you cancer education and awareness. Since March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, we have decided to focus on providing you information concerning this important topic. Please see below for more.


The colon and rectum are both part of the large intestine, which is sometimes called the bowel. Cancers of both organs are often grouped together as colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually several years), but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of a polyp turning into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is. If cancer forms in a polyp, it can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum over time. Once cancer cells are in the wall, they can then spread into blood vessels or lymph vessels (tiny channels that carry away waste and fluid). From there, they can travel to nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body.


There are multiple kinds of tests that screen for colorectal cancer. These include:

Stool-based tests: These tests look at the stool (feces) for possible signs of colorectal cancer or polyps. These tests are typically done at home, so many people find them easier than tests like a colonoscopy. But these tests need to be done more often. And if the result from one of these stool tests is positive (abnormal), you will still need a colonoscopy to see if you have cancer.

Visual (structural) exams: These tests look at the inside of the colon and rectum for any abnormal areas that might be cancer or polyps. These tests can be done less often than stool-based tests, but they require more preparation ahead of time, and can have some risks not seen with stool-based tests.

Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a colonoscopy if you are age 50+ or are at risk for colorectal cancer. During a colonoscopy, a thin, flexible tube with a light and a video camera on its tip is placed in your colon so a doctor can search for polyps. A tool at the end of the scope can remove polyps if they are found. A colonoscopy is the only screening method that not only detects cancer at its earliest stages but can also prevent it.


Under Age 50

  • It is recommended that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam). If you show early signs of cancer or at an increased, risk, you may need to be screened earlier than age 45.
  • Talk with your primary care provider about the right schedule for you.

Age 50 and Over

  • Everyone in this group should be screened with a colonoscopy.
  • Talk to your doctor to schedule your colonoscopy.


Those at risk for colorectal cancer include:

  • People with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • People known or suspected to have certain genetic syndromes
  • People with one or more family members who have had colon or rectal cancer
  • People who have had certain types of polyps removed during a colonoscopy
  • People who have had colon or rectal cancer
  • People who have had radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

To learn more about colorectal cancer, please visit MSK Direct’s personalized colon screening page for NYCDCC members at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center ( or by clicking the Colon Health Guide below. 


“Colorectal Cancer Guideline: How Often to Have Screening Tests.” American Cancer Society,