What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer affects either the large intestine, also called the large bowel or colon, or the passageway connecting the colon to the anus. Colorectal cancer usually starts as a polyp, an unwanted growth, that shouldn't be in the colon.  Over time, these polyps can develop into cancer. Polyps can be found by a colonoscopy and can be removed before they develop into cancer. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women, usually over the age of 45, and the chances of getting it increase with age. If you are 45 or older, a routine colorectal cancer screening could save your life.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

It is possible for someone to have colorectal cancer or polyps and not even know it.  However, if symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Bleeding from the rectum or blood in or on stool
  • Persistent problems in the abdomen, such as stomach pains, aches, feelings of fullness, and cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stools that are narrower than usual

You may have a greater risk of colorectal cancer if:

  • You have a close family relative who has had colorectal polyps or cancer
  • You suffer from inflammatory bowel disease
  • You have a genetic syndrome like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer
  • You use tobacco, are obese, or live a sedentary lifestyle

What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is the best method of screening for polyps and colon cancer. Preparation for a colonoscopy involves avoiding certain foods for a short period of time and then eliminating debris from the large intestine by drinking a solution that stimulates emptying of the bowels.

The actual procedure involves inserting a tiny camera through the anus into the rectum and colon. Through the camera’s lens, the doctor can look for polyps along the entire length of the colon. Polyps found in the colon can often be removed immediately and tissue samples are sent to the laboratory to determine if cancerous cells are present. The procedure is done while the patient is under an anesthetic. Therefore, it is important that the patient be accompanied by someone after the procedure.

Learn More About When to Get a Colorectal Cancer Check

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer usually starts as a lump in the breast; however, lumps in the breast do not always result in cancer.  An X-ray of the breast, known as a mammogram, can be used to detect abnormal growths in the breast. The American Cancer Society recommends that women have screening mammograms annually, starting at age 45 (age 40 if desired), and at least once every 2 years from age 55. Women with increased risk or family history may need mammograms starting at a younger age, or more frequently. Clinical breast exams can also be used to detect breast lumps; however, women are advised to obtain a mammogram in addition to an annual clinical breast exam. Clinical breast exams are recommended annually starting at age 21.

You may be at increased risk for breast cancer if:

  • You have used hormone replacement or oral contraceptives for a long time
  • You, your mother, sister or daughter has had breast cancer
  • You have more than one drink of alcohol a day
  • You have never been pregnant before or you had your first baby after age 30
  • You are overweight or not exercising regularly

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

It is possible for someone to have breast cancer and not even know it. Women are encouraged to be aware of the way their breasts normally look. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • New lump in the breast or armpit
  • Thickening or swelling of part of your breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple area
  • Pain in any area of the breast
  • Change in size or shape of the breast
  • Redness or discharge from the nipple

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix - a narrow area that connects the womb to the vagina (birth canal). Having a Pap test helps to reduce the chances of developing cervical cancer. During a Pap test, a doctor collects a sample of cells from the cervix. These cells are then tested in the laboratory for any abnormal cells. It is recommended that women have screening Pap tests every 3 years from age 21-29 and every 5 years from age 30-65 with an HPV test.

You may be at increased risk for cervical cancer if:

  • You smoke
  • You have used birth control pills for a long time
  • You have had many children
  • You have had many sexual partners
  • You have a virus called human papilloma virus

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

It is possible for someone to have cervical cancer and not even know it. However, if symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Bleeding outside of your usual menstrual period
  • Unusual menstrual periods that last longer or are heavier
  • Bleeding after menopause, sexual intercourse or pelvic exam
  • Vaginal discharge, pelvic pain or pain during sex


Our CPRIT colorectal cancer grant has provided funding for hundreds of colorectal cancer screenings for uninsured Brazos Valley residents, or underserved residents who qualify financially. Our women’s health services grant has also provided hundreds of screening mammograms, clinical breast exams, Pap tests, and additional diagnostics for women in the Brazos Valley who are uninsured and age-eligible for these services. Our C-STEP community health workers work with patients to ensure access and compliance. Navigation and support services are also in place, to assist in locating post-screening services should they be needed. Bilingual physicians and staff are available to all patients.

Texas C-STEP is dependent on referrals to maximize the availability of the free cancer screenings. Patients may be asked to complete a short qualifying application to determine financial need. Patients whose income and assets total up to 250% above federal poverty level may qualify for the free screenings.

For referrals/appointments, contact:

Breast/Cervical Cancer Screenings: 979-436-0453
Colorectal Cancer Screenings: 979-436-0443
Liver Cancer Screening: 979-436-0499

Texas A&M Health Family Care
2900 E. 29th Street
Bryan, TX 77802
Main number: (979) 776-8440

Se habla Español

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What tests would you recommend for me?
  • How do I prepare?
  • Do I need to change my diet or usual medication schedule?
  • What's involved in the process?
  • Will it hurt?
  • When will I get results?
  • Who will do the exam?
  • Do I need anyone with me?