Screening for Life
The Gastroenterology Clinic wants to remind you of the importance of screening for colorectal cancer. Prevention is the key to saving lives. Please take a moment to read the information below and if you meet any of the criteria, we encourage you to see your Gastroenterologist or family physician.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway connecting the colon to the anus.
The Second Leading Cancer Killer
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S. but if everyone 45 or older had regular screening tests, at least one third of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
Who Gets Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer occurs most often in people ages 45 and older, but it can appear in younger adults. The risk increases with age.
Are You at High Risk?
Your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease. Speak with your doctor about having earlier or more frequent tests if you think you're at high risk for colorectal cancer.
Screening Saves Lives
If you're 45 or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. Here's how:
- Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that shouldn't be there.
- Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer.
- Screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before becoming cancer.
- Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early when the chance of being cured is good.
Types of Screening Tests
Several different screening tests can be used to test for polyps or colorectal cancer. Each can be used alone. Sometimes they are used in combination with each other.
The Gold Standard
This test is similar to a flex sig, except the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer in the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.
Cologuard is a stool sample that is collected at home. It screens for colon cancer by detecting certain DNA markers and blood in the stool.
Fecal Blood Test
A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is an at-home screening test that checks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer. FIT only detects human blood in the small intestines.
What Are the Symptoms?
People who have polyps or colorectal cancer don't always have symptoms, especially at first. So someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. But if there are symptoms, they may include:
- Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
- Stomach aches, pains, or cramps that happen frequently, and you don't know why.
- A change in bowel habits, such as having stools that are narrower than usual.
- Losing weight and you don't know why.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. However, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
Many insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening. Check with your plan to find out which tests are covered for you.