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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital


The Five W's of Colorectal Cancer

photo; Man holding model of human intestines or bowels on white

Make sure you know the 5W's of Colon Cancer

By the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program and Ashley E. Smith
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Why” and “How’s” of Colorectal Cancer.


Colorectal Cancer (commonly known as Colon Cancer) is the SECOND leading cause of cancer-related death among men and women in the United States. 90% of new Colorectal Cancer cases occur in individuals age 50 and older. However, individuals with a first-degree relative with a history of Colorectal Cancer have two to three times the risk of developing Colorectal Cancer.


Colorectal Cancer is a HIGHLY PREVENTABLE disease that occurs in the colon or rectum. Colorectal Cancer usually starts from precancerous polyps. These polyps can be detected and removed during screenings, making Colorectal Cancer one of the only cancers that can be prevented simply from screenings.


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all men and women start screening for Colorectal Cancer beginning at age 50. Individuals with a family history of Colorectal Cancer may need to start screenings earlier than age 50 due to increased risk. It is important to discuss your risk with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:    

  • Blood in or on your stool.
  • Stomach pains, aches, or cramps that won’t go away.
  • Unexplained weight loss.


Although some individuals experience symptoms that may indicate the presence of Colorectal Cancer, many individuals have no symptoms. Screening for Colorectal Cancer helps find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer.


The Veterans Health Administration recommends individuals complete regular Colorectal Cancer screens. The VHA recommended screening methods include:

  • Colonoscopy (every 5-10 years based on results)
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years)
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) (every year)
  • gFOBT (a fecal occult blood test) (every year)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Colorectal (Colon) Cancer


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