In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined, but with screening, it is highly preventable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 140,000 people in America get colorectal cancer each year, and more than 50,000 people die of it. Risk increases with age, as more than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 45 years old or older. But there is good news. Early screening can a long way to saving lives.
How To Get Screened
The best way to be screened is through a colonoscopy. Regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. If you’re 45 to 75 years old, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re younger than 45 and think you may be at high risk of getting colorectal cancer, or if you’re older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
There are also at-home methods for colon cancer screening. Fecal immunochemical tests test for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of colon cancer. Find a gastroenterologist to learn more about the options and to schedule your screening. Want to know more about colorectal cancer? Take this quiz to check your knowledge.
For someone at average risk of colon cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends having a colonoscopy once every 5 to 10 years beginning at age 45. Someone at a higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancer may need to be tested earlier or more often. You have a higher risk of colon cancer if you have:
- A family history of colorectal polyps/cancer
- An inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis
- An inherited syndrome, such as Lynch syndrome, that increases your cancer risk
- Type 2 diabetes
Some colorectal risk factors can be controlled, such as:
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol use
- High red meat consumption
Talk with your doctor about these risk factors and whether early screening is right for you.
Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include:
- Blood in or on your stool
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
- Losing weight and you don’t know why
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
We Are Here To Help
The most common reason people give for not having a colonoscopy is that their doctor never mentioned the test to them. If your doctor doesn’t mention it, ask if you are due for one. It’s a small price to pay for cancer prevention.
So, if your doctor is advising you to get this test, you’re already ahead of the game. Start a conversation with your local gastroenterologist. Dr. Miral Subhani and Kate Ajib, PA-C DHSC from our Gastroenterology department can provide GI screenings, diagnostics, therapeutics, as well as nutritional guidance. Please call us at 561-622-6111 or use digital scheduling on our website to book your appointment.