UCI Health supports colorectal cancer awareness

Second-leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. is preventable

March 01, 2019

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and UCI Health is at the forefront of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

“The fact that one in every 20 Americans will get colorectal cancer is a national tragedy,” said Dr. Kenneth Chang, executive director of the UCI Health H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center. “The vast majority of these cases could be prevented with proper screening and removal of pre-cancerous polyps.”

Colorectal cancer claims 50,000 lives annually and the American Cancer Society estimates that 97,000 new cases of colon cancer and 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year. An estimated 16,450 of these cancers will be diagnosed in Americans under age 50.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society ACS lowered the recommended age to begin screening from 50 to 45 years. Guidelines include the following tests:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years. 
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, also known as a stool test, yearly. 
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that as many as 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were routinely screened. In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum.

 “UCI Health is committed to a colon cancer-free Orange County,” said Chang. “This includes creating an awareness throughout our community, as well as developing the very best technologies to improve detection of cancer and polyps, and making the colonoscopy experience more comfortable for patients through the use of a low-residue prep and minimal sedation.”   

Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for detecting and preventing potential cases. UCI Health efforts to improve colonoscopies include using artificial intelligence applications to improve polyp detection and pioneering low-residue diets to reduce the “ick” factor many people feel when preparing for the procedure.

Chang said colon cancer often has no symptoms. However, the following signs should be checked with your doctor:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Blood in the stool 
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other change in bowel habits
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Narrow stools
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Weight loss with no known reason

Throughout March, UCI Health will post tips about prevention, detection and treatment on Facebook (facebook.com/UCIrvineHealth), Twitter (@UCIrvineHealth), Instagram (@ucihealth) and at www.ucihealth.org/news

Go to http://www.ucihealth.org/medical-services/colorectal-disease for more information about screening, services and appointments.


UCI Health comprises the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, California. The 417-bed acute care hospital provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. It is the primary teaching hospital for the UCI School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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