Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a disease in which cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short or abbreviated as CRC.

Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage when treatment works best.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Promo with blue box and middle age male

How common is the disease?

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society's estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2022 are: 106,180 new cases of colon cancer. 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer.

South Carolina outpaces the nation both in terms of the number of cases (incidence) and deaths (mortality) for colorectal cancer ranking 36 out of 50 states.  

What causes CRC?

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, but certain risk factors are strongly linked to the disease, including diet, tobacco smoking and heavy alcohol use. Also, people with certain hereditary cancer syndromes or a family history of colorectal cancer have a high risk of developing the disease

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Colorectal polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer if not removed) and colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.

If you have symptoms, they may include—

  • A change in bowel habits.
  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way.
  • Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
  • Weight loss and you don’t know why.

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.

What Should You Know About Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colon Diagram and Colon Cancer as seen during a colonoscopy

A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms. (When a person has symptoms, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause of the symptoms.)

Colorectal cancer almost always develops from polyps that may or is likely to become cancer (precancerous polyps or abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early when treatment works best.

Screening Recommendations

Regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends that adults age 45 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The Task Force recommends that adults age 76 to 85 talk to their doctor about screening.

The Task Force recommends several colorectal cancer screening strategies, including stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy). Learn about these screening tests.

When Should Screening Begin?

Most people should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 45, then continue getting screened at regular intervals.However, you may need to be tested earlier than 45, or more often than other people, if you have—

If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about—

  • When to begin screening.
  • Which test is right for you.
  • How often to get tested.

Insurance and Medicare Coverage

Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay. Colorectal cancer screenings will now be available to all Medicaid recipients age 50 to 64, and high-risk individuals age 40 to 64 (high-risk based on medical and/or family history). The screenings, called colonoscopies, help identify cancer and pre-cancerous polyps associated with colorectal cancer

For more information about SC Medicare coverage, visit or call 1-888-549-0820. TTY users should call 1 (888) 842-3620.

You may be eligible for screening through the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Network.

Contact the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Network at the University of South Carolina at (803) 777-1231 or visit

For More Information, Awareness, Education and Resources

South Carolina Central Cancer Registry

For more information or to request a Community Cancer Assessment, please contact: or 803-898-8000.

South Carolina Cancer Alliance
1800 St. Julian Place, Suite 301
Columbia, SC 29204
Office: 803-708-4732
Toll Free: 866-745-5680

Centers for Disease Control
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027
USA 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
TTY: 1-888-232-6348

American Cancer Society
Toll Free: 1-800-227-2345

National Cancer Institute
Toll Free: 1-800-4-Cancer



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