Should I get screened for colorectal cancer?
You may have heard that colorectal cancer, or cancer found in the colon or rectum, is the third most-common type of non-skin cancer in both men and women. Yet you may not know who should get a colorectal cancer screening, or what the screening options are.
Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, individuals who are at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 45. However, some individuals who are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer may need to begin screening earlier.
Who is at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer?
- Individuals with one or more family members who have had colon or rectal cancer.
- Individuals who have already had certain polyps removed during a colonoscopy
- Individuals who have had colorectal cancer in the past
- Individuals who have had radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
- Individuals who have inflammatory bowel disease
- Individuals with certain genetic syndromes
If you are 45 or older, or if any of the above statements apply to you, talk to your doctor about the best time for you to get screened for colorectal cancer. Your employer may also offer colorectal cancer screenings as part of an employee well-being program. Check with your HR department to see if there are employee resources available for you.
I don’t have any symptoms, why should I get screened for colorectal cancer?
If you meet the age or risk criteria, it is important to get screened even if you don’t have symptoms, because screenings can detect colorectal cancer before symptoms begin, and sometimes even before the cancer develops.
Colorectal cancer usually develops from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum. Polyps found in the colon or rectum after age 50 are common, and most do not turn into cancer, yet a certain type, called an adenoma, is more likely to turn into cancer.
It is possible for screening tests to detect these polyps, so that doctors can remove them before they turn into cancer. Additionally, screening tests may detect the presence of cancer early, when treatment is the most effective.
I think I should get screened. What are my options?
There are several options for colorectal cancer screening, but they fall into two main categories: stool-based tests and visual exams.
A stool-based test is a noninvasive and easy option for colorectal cancer screening. One example of a stool-based test is the highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT), such as InSureTM ONE®. If you choose to use this method for screening, it is recommended that you complete a FIT test every year. Find out if your employer offers this convenient and effective way to screen.
The most well-known example of a visual exam is a colonoscopy. It is a much more invasive procedure, but as long as results are normal, it is only necessary to have a colonoscopy every 10 years. However, if results from a stool-based test are abnormal, it will be necessary to follow up with a colonoscopy no matter when your last one was.
While colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, because of screening it is also one of the most preventable. When caught early, the survival rate of those with colorectal cancer is significantly higher than when cancer is detected at the distant stage, after the cancer has spread.
If you meet the age or risk recommendations, be sure to talk to your doctor about making plans to get screened for colorectal cancer—it could save your life.