As a gastroenterologist, one of my most important roles is working with patients on the prevention of colorectal cancer (colon cancer). If you are 50 and older, I definitely recommend you make an appointment for a colorectal cancer screening
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and this is a great time to learn more about your risks and how to recognize and prevent this disease. Let me explain the importance of getting a colorectal cancer screening.
Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum and is the second leading cause of cancer death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 20 people are at risk for the disease; causing an estimated 50,000 deaths annually.
Scientists don’t yet know what causes colorectal cancer, but the older you are, the greater your chances of having colorectal cancer. In addition, certain lifestyle factors, such as lack of exercise, smoking, excess weight, or having three or more alcoholic drinks per day also increase your risk.
So what’s the good news? You have the power to stop colorectal cancer before it starts. Colorectal cancer is curable 90 percent of the time when detected and treated early. A colorectal screening is the best way to catch and treat the disease. Starting at age 50, men and women with average risk are recommended to get a screening.
You should check with your healthcare provider to discuss how often to get tested. Additionally, if there is a history of colorectal cancer in your family, your healthcare provider can let you know if you need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 50 and/or be screened more often.
There are several colorectal cancer screening test options, such as a colonoscopy, high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test and sigmoidoscopy. A colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” screening for colorectal cancer.
Preparation for a colonoscopy starts the day prior. There are a variety of new preparations available ranging from high volume liquid preps to low volume preps and pills to make the screening process easier and provide better results. Before the exam, you will be given a sedative to reduce the discomfort. During the colonoscopy, your doctor will insert a long, flexible thin scope (small camera) into your rectum and through the entire colon. The doctor will check for polyps, or growths, which can be cancerous or turn into cancer. If any suspicious polyps are found, your doctor will remove them.
Early diagnosis of colorectal cancer can often lead to a complete cure. So no matter how busy you feel, if you’re age 50 or older—or even younger if you’re at high risk—make time to talk with your doctor about getting screened for colorectal cancer. As part of the Affordable Care Act, colorectal cancer screening tests are covered by most insurance plans. Check with your health insurance provider to find out about your colorectal cancer screening benefits coverage.
Jeremy Anclam, DO, is gastroenterologist at HFM Gastroenterology. To schedule an appointment, call HFM Gastroenterology at 320-6212.