According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 140,000 people in America get colorectal cancer each year, and more than 50,000 people die of it. Risk increases with age, as more than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 45 years old or older. But there is good news. Early screening can a long way to saving lives.
How to get screened
The best way to be screened is through a colonoscopy. Regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. If you’re 45 to 75 years old, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re younger than 45 and think you may be at high risk of getting colorectal cancer, or if you’re older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
There are also at-home methods for colon cancer screening. Fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) test for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of colon cancer. Find a gastroenterologist to learn more about the options and to schedule your screening. Want to know more about colorectal cancer? Take this quiz to check your knowledge.
Two colon cancer survivors, one a father of two and one a mother of three, are both sharing their screening and survival stories with FirstHealth to encourage others to be aware of changes in their health.
Colorectal cancer is linked to getting older. Other risk factors include having:
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
- A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include a lack of physical activity, a diet low in fruit and vegetables and whole grains, a diet high in red meat. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking and being overweight or obese can also increase risk.
Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include:
- Blood in or on your stool
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
- Losing weight and you don’t know why
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
FirstHealth Cancer Services offers a comprehensive cancer program that combines surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy with support services and integrative medicine to enhance quality of life and minimize side effects during and after cancer treatment.
At FirstHealth, our Support Services and Integrative Medicine offer a range of wellness therapies and services that are designed to work together with traditional medical treatments. Since a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming to patients and families, we provide Oncology Nurse Navigators to accompany patients into the treatment process and introduce them to the broad array of services offered by FirstHealth.