An estimated 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if men and women 50 and older were screened routinely. However, only 61 percent of this group get screened.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer–related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum, usually as a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum called a polyp. Because it can take several years for the polyp to develop into colorectal cancer, regular screening can, in many cases, prevent colorectal cancer altogether by finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 in most people. Chances of developing colorectal cancer increase a great deal after age 50. But if you are under 50, it is important to ask your doctor if you should begin getting tested earlier. Certain risk factors can place you at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer. Earlier testing or more frequent testing may be recommended due to the following risk factors:
Make an appointment to discuss the issue, or bring it up during your next visit. If you are 50 or older or at higher risk, ask your doctor about which colorectal cancer screening test is best for you. Some options recommended by The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) include:
Note: Before either a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy, you will need to clean out your colon. Colon prep takes one to two days depending on which type of prep your doctor recommends. Some preps may be taken the evening before the test. For many people, the prep may be scarier than the actual test. Plan to stay home during your prep time since you will need to use the bathroom frequently. The colon prep causes loose, frequent stools and diarrhea so that your colon will be empty for the test.
Just remember: A little discomfort could save your life.
Besides getting colorectal cancer screening as recommended, there are other steps you can take to lower your risk for colorectal cancer:
Change in bowel habits is a common symptom for colorectal cancer. Symptoms may include:
Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems can also cause them. Talk to your doctor. Usually, early cancer does not cause pain, so it is important not to wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor. When colorectal cancer is detected early, it can have a 90 percent or better cure rate.
If you are 50 and older or have any risk factors for colorectal cancer or symptoms, talk to your doctor today. It could save your life. Spread the word!
You can also learn more by visiting the American Cancer Society website or signin in to MyHumana, scroll down to the Condition Centers located on the left side of the page, and select Cancer — Digestive
About the Author: Donna Fultz, a Corporate Quality Management nurse, has worked for Humana almost 25 years. In her present position she supports the market quality nurses. Away from work, Donna loves the outdoors and being with her family, friends and going to yard sales with her dog, Shelby.
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