We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Colon Cancer FREE

John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Writer; Cassio Lynm, MA, Illustrator; Richard M. Glass, MD, Editor
JAMA. 2006;296(12):1552. doi:10.1001/jama.296.12.1552.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon [large intestine] or rectum) is the third most common cancer in men and women. When it is discovered in its early stages, colon cancer is treated with surgery and often cured. However, many individuals with colon cancer have no symptoms until the disease reaches an advanced stage, such as metastasizing (spreading) to other organs. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths (after lung cancer) in the United States. Testing persons without signs or symptoms of colon cancer is called screening. Screening for colon cancer is recommended for everyone older than 50 years and especially for individuals who have significant risk factors. Several articles in the September 27, 2006, issue of JAMA discuss the importance of screening tests for early detection of this disease.


The following conditions may put you at higher risk for colon cancer:

  • Age (individuals older than 50 years)

  • Family history (you are more likely to get colorectal cancer if one of
    your parents, a brother, or a sister had the disease)

  • Personal medical history (you are at increased risk for colon cancer if you have
    had other types of cancer, a history of polyps, or inflammatory diseases of the bowel)

  • Lifestyle (cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol use, inactivity, obesity, and a high-fat/low-fiber diet place you at increased risk for colon cancer)


Standard tests used for detecting colon cancer include

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT—testing stool for small amounts of blood)

  • Sigmoidoscopy (placement of a lighted tube into the rectum to examine the lower part of the colon)

  • Colonoscopy (a lighted tube with an attached camera inserted through the rectum to view the large bowel and to take tissue samples)

  • Barium enema (a type of x-ray procedure)


Genetic testing can tell you whether you carry genes (discrete, functional units of DNA) that may eventually cause colon cancer. The sooner this information is known, the sooner diagnostic testing and effective treatment can begin. If you have a strong family history of colon cancer, you should discuss with your doctor having a blood test to look for these genes. The most common genetic changes occur in 2 conditions: hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC, now called Lynch syndrome), an inherited disorder with increased risk for several types of cancer; and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited disorder with many small growths that may become cancerous inside the colon.



To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on colon cancer screening was published in the March 8, 2006, issue.

Sources: American Cancer Society, American College of Gastroenterology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 203/259-8724.




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Spanish Patient Pages
Supplemental Content

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles