Work Well

Work Well advocates for a culture of wellness for UND faculty and staff through innovative engagement opportunities.

March Wellness Spotlight

Colon Cancer: Get Your REAR in Gear, No Butts About It!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal (colon) cancer rates in North Dakota are above the national average. In North Dakota, there rate of colon cancer was 38.1 per 100,000 people, whereas the national average is 36.3 per 100,000 people in 2019. Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer in the United States. With this, colorectal cancer screening saves lives. About 9 out of 10 people whose colorectal cancer was found early and treated appropriately are still alive 5 years later. Learn more about colorectal cancer in the March Wellness Spotlight!

Take the Colorectal Cancer Quiz HERE to check your knowledge!

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Getting older increases your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)

There are lifestyle factors that can also increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer which include:

  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use

Reduce your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

The best thing that you can do to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 45. Almost all colorectal cancers begin as abnormal growths in the colon or rectum and they may not cause any symptoms. Colorectal cancer screening can find these growths and remove them before they turn cancerous. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

Some other ways to reduce your risk include:  

  • Choosing a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Staying physically active
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding tobacco use


Colorectal polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum) and colorectal cancer do not always cause symptoms. With this in mind, someone could have colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting regularly screened is essential. 

If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in your stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way
  • Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
  • Unexpected weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. The only way to know what is causing these symptoms is by seeing your doctor.

Screening Recommendations


Regular screening, beginning at age 45 is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and diagnosing it early. The US Preventative Services Task Force recommends that adults aged 45 to 75 are screened for colorectal cancer. Adults aged 76 to 85 should talk to their doctor to see if screening is right for them. If you think you have an increased risk for colorectal cancer (see risk factors above), talk to your doctor. Some helpful questions to ask include:

  • When should I begin getting screened?
  • Which test is right for me?
  • How often should I get screened?

Colorectal Cancer Screening Stories, click HERE 

Colon Cancer: From Polyp to Malignancy, RHIhub


  1. U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, based on 2021 submission data (1999-2019): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute;, released in November 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Colorectal (Colon) Cancer. Retrieved from on December 28, 2022.