Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Reduce Your Risk
Regular screening is the key to preventing colorectal (colon) cancer. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 45, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if:
- You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
- You have Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis
- You have genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
The American Cancer Society recently completed a study that concluded that between 1994 and 2014, there was an increase in colorectal cancer diagnoses in people younger than age 50, the previously recommended age for colorectal screening. Because of this new data, the American Cancer Society has updated their recommendations in 2018 to include colorectal screening beginning at age 45. Though it is not clear what has caused this trend, certain lifestyle choices have been linked to increasing your risk: consumption of red/processed meat and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are known to increase risk of colon cancers.
Are You at Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
People with colorectal cancer often do not have symptoms right away. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have grown or spread to other organs, which may make treating it harder. That’s why routine screening is important.
Too Embarrassed to Get Tested?
The number one reason colorectal cancer goes undetected until the advanced stage is embarrassment. Studies have shown a majority of Americans feel uncomfortable about discussing potential symptoms of colon cancer with their doctor. Nobody said medical exams are fun, but they are a necessity in detecting colon cancer early.
Statistics show that when colon cancer is found and treated in its early stage, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent. The American Cancer Society predicts that the number of colon cancer deaths could drop by half if all Americans were routinely tested.
What's the Best Test?
The technology for medical testing has evolved tremendously. There are a number of ways to test for colon cancer. Decide with your doctor which test best suits you.
Tests offered for colon cancer detection include:
- Fecal occult blood testing
- Double contrast barium enema
Gastroenterologists suggest that a colonoscopy is the most effective way to test for colon cancer. Find a gastroenterologist to discuss the best option for you.
No matter which test you choose, doctors say rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits and cramping in the lower abdomen are all signs to get medical attention.