Screening for Colorectal Cancer Beginning at Age 50 Saves Lives

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Colorectal cancer, often just called colon cancer, is the second leading cancer killer that affects both men and women—but it doesn’t have to be. If you are over 50 or at increased risk for this cancer, please book a screening or support your loved ones in doing so.

The right screening not only allows your provider to detect this cancer early when treatment is most effective, but they can also remove any precancerous polyps found during your colonoscopy. This could prevent you from developing colorectal cancer in the first place.

Call (603) 354-6515 today to make an appointment for a screening at Cheshire Medical Center.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer usually starts from precancerous polyps in the colon (large intestine) or rectum (the passageway that connects the colon to the anus). A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there and can turn into cancer over time.

According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 23 for men and women combined (4.5%), however, this varies widely according to individual risk factors.

Should I be screened for colorectal cancer even if I don’t have symptoms?

Yes, if you are over 50 or at increased risk, because people who have polyps or colorectal cancer don’t always have symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. If you have any of the following symptoms, talk with your doctor:

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Pains, aches, or cramps in your stomach that don’t go away.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why.

NOTE: 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.

Why do some people put off getting screened for colorectal cancer*?

  • They heard the test is difficult or painful, and they may be embarrassed to discuss colorectal cancer screening with their doctor. (Most patients report that the procedure was no big deal.)
  • Because they have no family history, they think they aren’t at risk or don’t have to be screened. (Major groups like the American Cancer Society recommend screening for all individuals at average risk.)
  • They think screening is only for those who have symptoms. (Screening should be done even without symptoms.)
  • They are concerned about the cost of the test. (Insurance covers most costs for screenings.)

*Information provided by the American Cancer Society

How do I know if I’m at increased risk?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
  • You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.

If you think you may be at increased risk, speak with your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often you should be tested.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a screening used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The exam typically takes only 20 minutes to an hour. A tiny video camera at the tip of a flexible tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy as well.

If you are over 50 and haven’t yet had a colorectal cancer screening, it is possible you have an incomplete understanding of the exam. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about what to expect.

Call (603) 354-6515 to make an appointment for a colonoscopy at Cheshire Medical Center.