Colorectal Cancer: Why You Should Get Screened Sooner and How To Reduce Your Risk

Colorectal cancer couple

Although colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in the United States, it is one of the few cancers that can be prevented.

If cancer is present, it can also be caught at an early stage. Colorectal cancer prevention and early detection are done through screening, which means testing people who do not have symptoms. To schedule a screening at Cheshire Medical Center, call 603-354-5454, ext 3296, or talk to your primary care provider about which screening would be best for you.

Pandemic delayed screenings

Unfortunately, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, colorectal cancer screenings dropped roughly 90% and diagnoses fell by 32%. By June, this decline in screening put 18,000 people at risk for delayed or missed diagnoses and will lead to additional deaths from this preventable disease, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Get screened sooner

All people should be screened for colorectal cancer, as it affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. Recently, an increase in colorectal cancers in patients under 50 led the American Cancer Society and American College of Gastroenterology to lower the recommended age someone of average risk should begin colorectal cancer screening–to 45. The recent death of 43-year-old actor Chadwick Boseman is shining new light on the increasing prevalence of this disease in younger adults.

Is your risk average?

Your individual risk factors – such as ethnicity, lifestyle, and family history – will determine when you should start getting checked. Screening is especially important if anyone in your family has had polyps or colorectal cancer if you have IBS, or if are overweight, eat a diet high in red meat, are a smoker, or are not physically active. Learn more about risk factors indicating you should get your first screening before the age of 45.

How preventative screenings work

Most colorectal cancers start out as small growths (polyps) that form on the lining of the large intestine. Over a period of about ten years, some of these polyps can become cancers. During a colonoscopy (which is one type of colorectal cancer screening test) a doctor can find and remove polyps in the large intestine. Removing polyps is entirely painless. Finding and removing these polyps dramatically reduces the chances of cancer developing. About 40% of people who are screened for colorectal cancer are found to have polyps. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health shares more information on types of colorectal cancer screening tests .

Take control of your risk

While colorectal cancer screening is the single most important thing you can do, there are plenty of other steps you can take to increase your chances of prevention and early detection. Most are rewarding in and of themselves, like eating right and exercising, and learning about your family history.

To schedule a screening at Cheshire Medical Center, call 603-354-5454, ext 3296, or talk to your primary care provider about which screening would be best for you.