March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.


Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable and treatable disease. Being aware of the risk factors and symptoms and following screening guidelines is key.


Symptoms of colorectal cancer:


Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It is often referred to as colon cancer. Symptoms of colorectal cancer often are not apparent in its early stages. In fact, the most common symptom is NO symptom, which is why screening beginning at the age of 50 is key to early detection. When symptoms DO arise, the most common involve changes in bowel habits.


Although several of the following symptoms may be characteristic of problems other than colorectal cancer, contact your health care provider if you experience any of the following:

  • A distinct change in bowel habits
  • Feeling like your bowel is not emptying completely
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Blood in stool
  • Narrower than usual stools
  • Gas pain, cramps, bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting


Risk factors for colorectal cancer: 

  • Being age 50 and older
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Personal history of cancer
  • A long history of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease)
  • Diet – studies suggest that diets high in fat (especially animal fat) and low in calcium, folate, and fiber may increase the risk. Other studies suggest that people who eat a diet low in fruits and vegetables may have a higher risk.
  • Tobacco use
  • Being overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle / lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • High consumption of processed or red meat
  • Genetic alterations – If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, ask your healthcare provider about genetic testing.


Screening Guidelines:


The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends the following screening guidelines to detect polyps and cancer before any symptoms arise. Talk with your health care provider about what type of screening is best for you.


  • Ages 50-75: Screening for colorectal cancer using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. (The risks and benefits of each screening method varies.)
  • Ages 76-85: No routine screening for colorectal cancer in adults in this age group. (There may be considerations that support colorectal cancer screening for an individual.)
  • Ages 86 and older: No screening for colorectal cancer.


What you can do:

  • Include high-fiber foods in every meal. Fill most of your plate with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Be active. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Get regular colon cancer screenings.


(Source: National Cancer Institute


*This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns that you may have.


Insurance and screening:


Affordable Care Act (ACA) – Coverage of colorectal cancer screening tests is required by Affordable Care Act. Health plans started on or after September 23, 2010, are required to cover colonoscopies and other colorectal cancer screening tests. Plans started before September 23, 2010 may still have coverage requirements from state laws, which vary, and other federal laws. Contact your health insurance company to find out about coverage.


Medicare – covers an initial preventive physical exam for all new Medicare beneficiaries that must occur within one year of enrollment. If you’ve had Medicare Part B for longer than 12 months, a yearly “wellness” visit is covered without any cost. Your health care provider should discuss with you a screening schedule (like a checklist) for preventive services you should have, including colon cancer screening.


MediCal – California is authorized to cover colorectal screening under their MediCal / Partnership HealthPlan program.



To learn more, please contact the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County.


 2015 Cancer Awareness and Prevention Campaign


Presented by the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County in collaboration with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency.

The Cancer Resource Centers mission is to improve the quality of life for those in Mendocino County faced with cancer.



Coastal Office: 45040 Calpella Street, Mendocino, CA 95460 | (707) 937-3833

Inland Office: 590 South Dora Street, Ukiah, CA 95482 | (707) 467-3828

Health and Human Services Agency | (707) 472-2333