By Ashlyn Seeley Everett, M.D., radiation oncologist at Alliance Cancer Care
If you are 45 years or older, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends you to have annual colorectal screening. In 2021, the screening age was lowered from age 50 to age 45 due to an increased number of colorectal cancer cases in younger patients. These are not cancers in patients with known family history, but the general population. This means we all need to become more proactive with screening and practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Symptoms of colon cancer may include blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, stools that are narrower than usual, and unplanned weight loss.
Here’s the good news: colorectal cancer is highly preventable! Early detection through prevention and screening is proven to drastically reduce deaths from colorectal cancer. In 2022, an estimated 151, 030 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, despite this being a preventable cancer. Over 40,000 lives a year could be saved with early screening and treatment. Over 90% of patients with colorectal cancer are cured when diagnosed early.
Colorectal cancer typically develops from an abnormal growth in the colon called a polyp. Over time, polyps can become malignant and develop into cancer. But screening for colorectal cancer often detects polyps, and through colonoscopy, polyps can be removed before they grow into cancers.
Screening tests for colorectal cancer include the fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy, most commonly. A colonoscopy is both diagnostic and therapeutic since polyps and small cancers can often be removed when detected. Patients with a family history of colon cancer or patients who have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) are known to have an increased risk of colorectal cancer, and screening recommendations may vary.
What are you waiting for? Contact your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist to schedule your screening today.