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Colorectal Cancer

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In Ontario, colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death. The good news - with proper screening, this disease can be prevented.

In the colon, normal cells can develop abnormal changes in them and become "adenomas." Adenomas can develop as small growths (polyps) in the colon. If these are detected early and removed, colon cancer does not develop. Once an adenoma develops, it may take up to 10 years for it to grow and change into a cancer. There is enough time for polyps to be detected by colonoscopy and removed. Unfortunately, if colon cancer is not detected in the early stages, it spreads beyond the colon and adequate treatment is not effective to provide a cure.

Most polyps can be removed safely by colonoscopy before they become cancers. This exam can detect up to 97% of all polyps and cancers.

What are colon polyps?

Polyps are an overgrowth of tissue lining the inner wall of the colon. These may be mushroom shaped (pendunculated) or flat (sessile). Small polyps are usually harmless but may contain abnormal cells that have the potential to grow and become cancerous. The larger the polyp the greater the risk of malignancy (cancer).



Fast Facts on Colorectal Cancer


  • It is the second leading cause of male and female cancer-related deaths in Canada.

  • Colon cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. If screened and caught early – the chances of survival increase by 90%.

  • Unfortunately as it stands today, nearly half of those diagnosed find out too late.

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer.

  • 423 Canadians, on average, are diagnosed with colon cancer every week.

  • 175 Canadians, on average, die of this disease every week.

  • One in 14 men is expected to develop colorectal cancer during his lifetime and one in 27 will die of it.

  • One in 15 women is expected to develop colorectal cancer during her lifetime and one in 31 will die of it.

  • Anyone 50 and up should be screened regardless of family history.


Source: The Canadian Cancer Society

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