March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Colorectal cancer or colon cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. It affects men and women equally, all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people age 50 and older. Of cancers that affect both men and women, colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be. Colon cancer is up to 90% beatable when caught early. Screening saves lives.
Why Should I Get Screened?
- Screening tests can find pre-cancer cells called polyps. Polyps can be removed before they turn into cancer.
- Screening tests can also find colon cancer early.
- Treatment for colon cancer at an early stage often leads to a cure.
- If you are African American, you may have a higher risk of getting colon cancer.
When Should I Begin to Get Screened?
- You should begin screening for colon cancer soon after turning 50.
- You should continue getting screened until age 75.
- After age 75 talk to you doctor about what is best for you.
Types of Screening Tests
You receive a test kit from your doctor. At home, you use a stick to brush a small amount of stool. Your doctor sends the test to the lab. The sample is checked for the presence of blood.
How often Once a year.
For the test, the doctor puts a thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon.
How often: Every five years
The doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. Colonoscopy also is used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests.
How often: Every ten years.
You may need to be tested earlier than age 50, or more often than other people if:
You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colon cancer.
You have an inflammatory bowel disease.
You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
Ask your doctor when you should begin screening and how often you should be tested.