Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Regular Screenings Can Save Lives
Colorectal cancer screening – testing to look for cancer before symptoms start – can help save lives. Regular screening can find colorectal cancer early when it can be easier to treat. There are several different screening options for colorectal cancer. No matter which one you choose, the important thing is to be tested.
If you have delayed your screening appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to safely resume these important tests.
“If you’re 45 or older, it’s important to get screened for colorectal cancer regularly,” said ARH General Surgeon William Gaunt, MD. “When colorectal cancer is caught early, treatment can be most effective.”
According to the American Cancer Society, there are several screening test options. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine which option is right for you.
- Colonoscopy: an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. (every 10 years)
- High-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Stool specimens are collected by patients in their home. (every year)
- Sigmoidoscopy: a diagnostic test to check the lower part of your colon or large intestine (the sigmoid colon). This part of your colon is close to your rectum and anus. (every 10 years, with FOBT or FIT every three years)
- Sigmoidoscopy alone (every 5 years).
- Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA): a noninvasive laboratory test that identifies DNA changes in the cells of a stool sample. The stool DNA test is a new method to screen for colon cancer. (every one or three years)
“Though researchers are not sure what causes colorectal cancer, certain factors like smoking, excess weight and alcoholic drinks may affect your risk,” stated Gaunt. “Also keep in mind if a parent, grandparent or other close relative has had colorectal cancer, your risk increases significantly.”
Overall, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is by having regular colorectal cancer screening tests beginning at age 45.
And no matter your age, talk to your doctor about your family medical history. People at higher risk for colorectal cancer because of family history or certain health conditions might need to start screening earlier than age 45 or be screened more often.
Talk to your healthcare provider about screening options and take charge of your health. To find an ARH physician, go to www.arh.org or call your local ARH hospital.