Colon Cancer Screening
We know having a colonoscopy isn’t something people get excited about. But preventing colon cancer before it starts should be.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., and one in 20 people will develop it in their lifetime. But, when detected in its early stages during a colonoscopy, colon cancer is also one of the most highly treatable and preventable cancers.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Why Should I Get Screened for Colon Cancer?
A. It’s preventable! Using a colonoscopy, physicians can locate and remove pre-cancerous polyps before they develop into cancer.
In its early stages, colon cancer shows no symptoms. This is why it’s so important to get screened even if you feel fine. By definition, a screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms.
According to the American Cancer Society, when colon cancer is detected early, before it has spread, the 5-year survival rate of a patient is 90%. This means 9 out of 10 people with early-stage cancer survive at least 5 years. But if the cancer has had a chance to spread outside the colon, survival rates are much lower. This is another one of the many reasons why screening is so very important.
Q. Who Should Get Screened?
A. Anyone can get colorectal cancer. And it affects both men and women equally.
This is why screening colonoscopies are recommended for every adult beginning at age 50 and at age 45 if you are African-American. For those with a family history of the disease, or other risk factors, screening could start even earlier. For example, if a close family member – like a mother or father – was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 50, the children of those parents should get screened at age 40 – 10 years before the age of their parent’s diagnosis.
While there is evidence that more people are getting screened than in previous years, one in three adults ages 50 or older are not being tested.
Q. Who is at Risk for Colon Cancer?
A. While there is no specific cause of colon cancer, certain factors can increase your risk of developing the disease. These can include:
- Age 50 or older
- Personal history of colon polyps, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Family history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- A diet rich in fat and red meat
- Heavy alcohol use
- Cigarette smoking
- Obesity, diabetes, and lack of exercise
Q. What Are Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
A. The symptoms of colon cancer are not unique. Most of the time, these same symptoms may be caused by something that isn’t cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. That being said, if you have any of these issues, it's important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Take charge of your health.
Talk to your physician about scheduling a screening colonoscopy.