Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in males and females in the U.S. One out of every 20 individuals living in the United States will develop colon cancer in their lifetime, that’s a high number. There are approximately 130,000 new cases of colon cancer in the United States. Ninety percent of the patients diagnosed with colon cancer are over the age of 50, which is why the recommendation to screen people for colon cancer starts at the age of 50.
Although colon cancer isn’t necessarily preventable, it is highly treatable and curable if found early.
The reason to screen people for colon cancer is to find pre-cancerous polyps and to remove them before they turn into cancer. This is done with a colonoscopy and it’s highly effective. The current recommendation is to start screening for colon cancer at the age of 50. Anyone who has family history of colon cancer, may need to be screened before they turn 50. In fact, people who have a first-degree relative with colon cancer are at a 2-3 times higher risk of developing colon cancer in their lifetime, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what they would recommend. The current guidelines recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years. The guidelines currently state to continue colonoscopies until age 75, but that may be longer if you have any suspicious polyps or bleeding.
Other screening methods are also available for patients and Agnesian HealthCare will be offering cancer screenings with a FIT kit that is a test that can be done at home. It’s a simple test that can be done in the privacy of your own home and is relatively accurate in testing if there’s blood in the stool. It doesn’t diagnose cancer, but since bleeding is a common symptom that is associated with colon cancer, it can alert the patient of a potential problem.
Despite our best efforts to screen people with colonoscopies and other tests, only about 60% of people get the recommended screening. Without screening, colon cancer is usually found in advanced stages that are often not curable. This is why colon cancer is still the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.
If you are interested in scheduling a colonoscopy, contact your primary care provider or you can call Agnesian HealthCare Gastroenterology at 926-8570 or Agnesian HealthCare General Surgery at 926-8485.