Skip to content

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer in the United States

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the United States, with 134,000 new cases and almost 49,000 deaths occurring nationally (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2016). There are 1,200,000 Americans living with colorectal cancer.  

Colorectal Cancer in South Carolina

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in South Carolina. About 830 people will die this year from this preventable disease, and there will be about 2,200 new cases (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2016).

Only 64.2% of people aged 50 or older report having ever had a colorectal cancer screening test in SC (SC BRFSS 2012).

Download Colorectal Cancer Fact Sheet (pdf)

Importance of Colorectal Cancer Screening

The rate of new cases has been decreasing for most of the past twenty years, mainly because more people were screened for colorectal cancer. A recent study estimates that screening has prevented approximately 550,000 cases in the US over the past three decades (Yang, Cancer 2014).

Screening has the potential to prevent colorectal cancer, because most colorectal cancers develop from mild polyps. Polyps are noncancerous growths in the colon and rectum. Though most polyps will not become cancerous, detecting and removing them through screening can actually prevent cancer from occurring. Polyps and early stage colon cancer often have no symptoms, making them a "silent killer."  Being screened at the recommended frequency increases the likelihood that when colorectal cancer is present, it will be detected at an earlier stage— when it is more likely to be cured, treatment is less extensive and the recovery is faster.

Screening should start at age 50 and continue until age 75 for most men and women. Routine screening between ages 76-85 is not recommended. [Sources: American Cancer Society; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)]

Screening Options

  • a scope to view inner lining of the large intestine (rectum and colon).  The scope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera at its tip.
  • Helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding.
  • Before this test, you will need to clean out your colon (colon prep). Colon prep takes 1 to 2 days, depending on which type of prep your doctor recommends. Some preps may be done the evening before the test. Plan to stay home during your prep time, since you will need to use the bathroom often.
Advantage of Colonoscopy

If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy, as well.

How often: Every 10 years.

  • Needs specimens from 2 bowel movements
  • Uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool
  • Results not influenced by foods or medications
  • Will need to get a colonoscopy if postive result
Advantages of FIT
  • Less expensive than colonoscopy
  • No bowel preparation
  • Done in privacy at home
  • No need for time off work
  • No assistance getting home after the procedure
  • Non-invasive

How often: Once a year.

Chronic Diseases Associated with Colorectal Cancer Risk

According to the American Cancer Society, the following risk factors can increase the risk of getting colorectal cancer:

Increased and High Risks for Colorectal Cancer
  • Family history of colorectal cancer - People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) who have had colorectal cancer have 2 to 3 times the risk of developing the disease compared to individuals with no family history. If the relative was diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative, risk increases to 3 to 6 times that of the general population. About 20% of all colorectal cancer patients have a close relative who was diagnosed with the disease.
  • Personal history of
    • Adenomatous polyps
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Ulcerative colitis
    • Crohn's disease

People with increased and higher risk conditions are not candidates for the FIT test; must be screened with colonoscopy.

What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society recommend the following to help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer:

1. Get screened regularly.

2. Adopt a physically active lifestyle.  Physical activity is primary prevention for many chronic diseases and conditions including cancer, diabetes, arthritis pain, heart disease and stroke.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. Good nutrition is also primary prevention for many chronic diseases and conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Eat a healthy diet; specifically:

  • Aim to eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of processed (refined) grains.
  • Limit your consumption of processed and red meats.
  • Decrease your intake of high-fat foods.
  • Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D for your age and sex.

WISEWOMAN Program - DHEC's Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation (WISEWOMAN) provides health screenings and lifestyle education for women who qualify to help reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke.

Nutritional Counseling Program - S. C. Healthy Connections Medicaid now covers nutritional counseling as part of SCale Down initiative

4. Limit alcoholic beverages.
5. Don't smoke or use tobacco products.

  • Trying to quit? Call the SC Tobacco Quitline at (800) 784-8669 (800-QUIT-NOW). For other inquiries, call (803) 545-4467.
Free Screenings!

You may be eligible for screening through the Colon Cancer Network.

The Center for Colon Cancer Research
Colon Cancer Network
(803) 777-1231

State Employees and their spouses covered under the State Health Plan (PEBA) may not have to pay for colon screenings.
PEBA Perks has removed a patient's out-of-pocket cost for diagnostic colonoscopies and routine screenings, including the pre-surgical consultation, the generic prep kit, the procedure itself and associated anesthesia. The Standard and Savings Plans follow the age recommendations set by the United States Preventive Services Task Force for routine colonoscopies.

Get Involved!

Join the South Carolina Cancer Alliance (SCCA) to become more informed of cancer control activities in South Carolina.

  • Find opportunities to collaborate with new partners.
  • Receive communications updates.
  • Become a part of local, state and nationwide efforts to reduce the cancer burden.
For more information

South Carolina Cancer Alliance
2711 Middleburg Drive, Suite 302, Columbia, SC 29204
(803) 708-4273

American Cancer Society
128 Stonemark Lane, Columbia, SC 29210
(803) 750-1693

Centers for Disease Control
1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027 USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), TTY: 888-232-6348

National Cancer Institute
BG 9609 MSC 9760
9609 Medical Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-9760

DHEC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
2100 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201
(803) 898-1615