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The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2011 about 141,210 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 49,380 people will die of the disease in the US. In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death. The majority of these cancers and deaths could be prevented by applying existing knowledge about cancer prevention and by increasing the use of established screening tests.
Sigmoidoscopy, followed by colonoscopy if a polyp or tumor is found, can identify 70% to 80% of individuals with advanced lesions and is associated with a 60% to 80% reduction in colorectal cancer mortality for the area of the colon within its reach.70-72 Results of a recent clinical trial indicate that a single sigmoidoscopy screening between the ages of 55 and 64 years reduces colorectal cancer incidence by 33% and mortality by 43%.
It has been estimated that colonoscopy screening has the potential to prevent about 65% of colorectal cancer cases.75-76 Colonoscopy also has the longest rescreening interval of all forms of testing; if normal, the exam does not need to be repeated for 10 years. However, colonoscopy has a higher risk of complications than other forms of testing, including bowel tears or bleeding, especially when a polyp is removed
Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or the rectum. The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal, or GI, system. The digestive system processes food for energy and rids the body of solid waste (fecal matter or stool).