Colorectal Cancer is more commonly known as Colon cancer that has developed from a polyp, or growth, on the wall of the colon or rectum. It is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined and is responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths each year. Even though it is the most preventable form of cancer, it can develop over a period of 10 to 15 years before causing symptoms when it has reached the later stages, making it difficult to treat.
It has also been found that the cancers found in younger patients tend to be more aggressive, but colorectal cancer that is found at the local/early stage has a five-year survival rate of 90% versus a five-year survival rate of 14% for colon cancer found at the distant/late stage. The best way to find and diagnose colon cancer in the early stages is through screenings.
Therefore, earlier screening prior to the age of 55 is important, especially if you have a family history, in which screenings should be done at age 40 or earlier.
Below are some common questions about colorectal cancer and screenings.
Who can get colorectal cancer?
There is an overall lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer for 1 in 24 women and 1 in 22 men. Age is the biggest factor when determining risk with 9 out of 10 instances occurring in people over the age of 50. More recent studies and trends are showing an increase for younger adults each year.
There is a higher risk for those who have:
- A close relative that has or had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer (2-3 times greater risk)
- An inflammatory bowel disease – like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- A genetic disorder – like hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch Syndrome) or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Type 2 Diabetes.
When should I start getting screened?
For those with an average risk, it is recommended by the CDC to start screenings at the age of 50, and some institutions are recommending starting earlier at the age of 45. These individuals are recommended to have a colonoscopy screening once every 5 to 10 years.
For those who have increased risk should have screenings done at age 40 or earlier, and their provider will develop a plan for scheduled screenings based on the individual’s risk factors.
What are colonoscopies?
Colonoscopies are an endoscopy procedure (learn more about endoscopy procedures here) that are common to screen for colon cancer. During the procedure, your doctor examines your colon and rectum for the polyps and growths that may form cancer. If a polyp or growth is found, they are removed and a biopsy can be taken with the use of the endoscope (camera with a flexible tube) during the procedure and sent in for testing.
How can you increase your colon health?
In addition to regular screenings, there are lifestyle changes and habits that you can implement to better your colon health and prevent cancer.
The below changes have strong evidence to suggest the below lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer:
- Adding more whole grains to your diet (3 servings per day)
- Cutting back on red meat i.e., beef and pork
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Engaging in regular exercise
- Reduced sugar and sweet drink intake
While implementing the above changes is important for cancer prevention and your health, they are not a substitute for regular cancer screenings.
Who can do colorectal cancer screenings at Family Medical Specialties?
Give us a call to schedule your screening today: 308-995-4431