March is Colorectal Cancer Month: Have you been screened?

March 30, 2021

By: Kirthi Lilley, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine

Did you know you have a 1 in 23 chance of developing colorectal cancer in your lifetime if you are a man and a 1 in 25 chance if you are a woman?

Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer diagnosed in both men and women. It is estimated about 149,500 new cases will be diagnosed in 2021 with an estimated number of deaths of 52,980.

The good news is that, although it is the third most common cancer, colon cancer is preventable. Prevention starts by getting yourself screened for colon cancer. Medicare and all private insurances cover colorectal cancer screening.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer

If you are experiencing active gastrointestinal symptoms, such as blood in your stool/rectal bleeding or abdominal pain associated with weight loss or a change in bowel habits, you should see your primary care physician for an urgent referral for a colonoscopy. These could be symptoms of colorectal cancer.

Screening can prevent or detect early colon cancer

If you are 50 years or older, talk to your primary care physician or nurse practitioner regarding getting screened for colon cancer right away. Screening can help prevent colon cancer or help detect cancer at earlier stages with higher survival rates.

There are several ways to get screened for colon cancer. Colonoscopy is the gold standard or preferred screening method. However, there are other options available to you as well.

If you are considered to be at average risk for colon cancer, the following tests are recommended:

  • Colonoscopy (a test using a specialized scope to look directly at the whole colon that is performed under sedation) – if the test result is normal, a repeat test would be recommended every 10 years.
  • Stool-based tests, such as a FIT or Stool DNA test – if the test is positive, you will then need to have a colonoscopy.
    • Fecal immunochemistry test (FIT) – if normal, recommended once a year until age 75
    • Stool DNA test (Cologuard) – if normal, recommended every 3 years

You are considered at high risk for colon cancer if you have inflammatory bowel disease, a previous history of colon polyps or colon cancer, or have blood-related family members with colon cancer. Colonoscopy is the recommended method for screening when you are at high risk.

Lifestyle can also make a difference

Daily exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and avoiding smoking can also help reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.

Have questions? Are you ready to get screened? Talk to your Wayne Health primary care physician now for a referral for a colonoscopy or one of the other colon cancer screenings. If you don’t have a primary care physician, set up an appointment with a Wayne Health physician at our website or by calling 877-413-4395.

March is Colorectal Cancer Month: Have you been screened?
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