March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time set aside to focus on the third most common cancer worldwide and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths each year in the United States. Colorectal cancer is known in the medical community as the “silent killer” because of its lack of symptoms. Too often, colon cancer treatment is difficult because it is not diagnosed until it has progressed to a later stage.

In early 2024, the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced that cases of colorectal cancer cases in younger adults are on an alarming increase. According to the ACS, in the 1990s, colorectal cancer was the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men and women. In 2024, it is the leading cause of cancer death in men younger than 50 and the second-leading cause in women in that age group.

While the precise cause of colorectal cancer remains unknown, various risk factors have been recognized. Age is obviously emerging as a significant factor, joining the well-known risk factor of having a family history of colorectal cancer. Colon cancer rates are also higher in those with a personal history of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can be subtle, so it is important to be aware of the warning signs. These might include changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation or a change in stool consistency), blood in the stool (rectal bleeding), persistent abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas or pain) and unexplained weight loss.

Like all cancers, early detection is crucial for successful treatment. Screening methods like colonoscopies, fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) and sigmoidoscopies can detect precancerous polyps or early-stage cancer. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used to examine the inside of the colon and rectum and is considered the gold standard of diagnostic testing for the detection of colorectal cancer.

Pikeville Medical Center’s (PMC) primary care providers work closely with PMC general surgeons to schedule routine colonoscopies and diagnostic biopsies for their patients. The United States Preventive Services Taskforce (USPSTF) guidelines recommend that every person 45 and older has a colonoscopy done once every ten years as a screening for colorectal cancer.

If the surgeon discovers a cancerous polyp as a result of a colonoscopy, there are several treatment options to consider. Common treatments include surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. When patients are faced with a colon cancer diagnosis, the experienced specialists at the Lawson Cancer Center at Pikeville Medical Center are skilled in providing comprehensive and compassionate oncology care.

During March, patients 45 and over are encouraged to talk to their family medical provider about colorectal cancer screenings. To schedule an appointment with a Pikeville Medical Center primary care provider, call (606)-430-3500 or visit