Colorectal Cancer FAQs | Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute

June 18, 2024


The time has come for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month! There are many ways to raise awareness, but people often ask us what they can do. Our answer first and foremost is to get involved in the Rumpshaker 5K. Since 2009, the race has raised more than a million dollars to help treat and fight colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic COVID-19, the race was cancelled this year. Plans are already underway to make the Rumpshaker 2021 the best year ever. Check for upcoming details on the Rumpshaker website.

Now that you know about this incredible way to get involved in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we want to answer some other frequently asked questions about colorectal cancer. 

Colorectal cancer FAQs

I found a little bit of blood in my stool. Does this mean I might have colorectal cancer?

The earliest sign of colorectal cancer may be bleeding. But if this happens to you, there’s no reason to panic. Several other conditions can cause blood in the stool. However, if this does occur, you should see your doctor right away so that we can make a correct diagnosis and come up with a proper treatment plan, if necessary.

Besides blood in the stool, what are other symptoms of colorectal cancer to watch out for?

  • Change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Unusual stomach or gas pains
  • Very narrow stool
  • A feeling that your bowel has not emptied completely after passing stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue

When I had a colonoscopy, my doctor removed an adenoma -- what is this exactly?

An adenoma is a benign, or non-cancerous, polyp or growth in the lining of the large intestine. Adenomas are considered to be precursors of colon and rectal cancer. However, only 1 or 2 out of 100 ever become malignant (cancerous). When polyps are discovered during a colonoscopy, we cannot always tell which are pre-cancerous and which are not, so we remove all polyps in the colon and rectum.

If  I change my diet, will it reduce my risk of getting colon cancer?

This is an area where there is quite a bit of continued debate. We do believe that fiber is important to reduce colon cancer risk, although some studies have shown that a high-fiber diet doesn't make much difference. Diets that include a lot of fat and cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

Most of us agree that you should add fiber to your diet, because fiber-rich foods are an essential source of nutrients that can help prevent many other serious conditions, such as heart disease. 

The best way to prevent colon cancer is to stay active, eat a balanced diet, maintain your ideal body weight, and schedule colonoscopies regularly after age 50, or earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer.

I have a family member who had colon cancer. Does this mean I will get it too?

If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with colon cancer, you are at an increased risk. However, you should not automatically assume that you will develop colon cancer as well. If you do fall into this category, our best advice is to start working with us 10 years earlier (around age 40 rather than 50) than typically advised to start regular colonoscopies. Any symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract should be evaluated promptly regardless of your age.

I don’t have a family history of cancer or gastrointestinal symptoms. Do I still need to have a colonoscopy?

Absolutely! Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. Men and women are at equal risk, and over 90% of colorectal cancers develop in those who do not have a family history of the disease. Early diagnosis and prevention are key! When diagnosed early, over 90% of colorectal cancer cases are curable. 

If I am diagnosed with colorectal cancer, what happens next? 

Colorectal cancer requires surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure. Patients often undergo radiation and chemotherapy in addition to surgery. 

Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

Yes! We believe that nearly all colorectal cancer begins in benign polyps that form on the inner lining of the bowel. These have the potential to grow and become cancerous. Removal of these polyps during a colonoscopy is an example of preventive medicine, and this is why regular colonoscopies starting at the appropriate age are so important.

If you have questions not covered in this post, please let us know what they are! We work with each patient on an individualized basis to assess what your plan for colorectal cancer prevention should be and what your treatment plan should be, if necessary. If it’s time for you to have a colonoscopy, there is no better time than right now! For more FAQs about Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute, check out this page on our website.

Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute is centered around treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus

Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute (also known as the “Butt Hutt” around town!) has been in practice since 1990 as a free-standing, private practice located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.  We are known for our efficiency and patient care, in a more relaxed office-based setting.  Our doctors are known regionally for their expertise and are active in teaching surgical residents and other physicians.  We are also a major sponsor of The Rumpshaker 5K, a race that promotes awareness about colorectal cancer.  Check out our website for more information, or give us a call to make an appointment at (205) 458-5000, or email us at [email protected]. 

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