Colon and Rectal Cancer Prevention

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the US. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 97,000 new cases of colon cancer and more than 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer in 2018.

Colorectal cancer is the 2 nd most common cause of cancer death in the United States, approximately 50,000 deaths are expected from colorectal cancer in 2018.

The lifetime risk for the development of colorectal cancer is 4.49% for men and 4.15% for women. This equates to 1 in 22 to 1 in 24 people developing colorectal cancer.

Why was the age to begin screening just lowered to 45?

  • In 2018 an article was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finding that nearly 1/3 or rectal cancers were being diagnosed under the age of 55.
  • The following year the American Cancer Society officially announced it supported starting colon cancer screening beginning at age 45 in light of this publication.
  • In June of 2021 the United States Preventative Services Task Force made an official ruling to lower the age at which insurance companies are to cover colon cancer screening from 50 to 45 years-old.

How can you lower the risk for yourself?

  • Don’t ignore symptoms such as rectal bleeding or a change in your bowel habit
    • Many patients, especially younger patients often attribute their rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids, but large rectal polyps and even early stage rectal can bleed in a manner identical to hemorrhoid bleeding without any other associated symptoms.
    • We sent a letter to primary care doctors about this concerning issue and what we at Colorectal Health are doing to prevent rectal cancer. Most often we can distinguish between hemorrhoids and bigger issues that cause similar symptoms by means of an office- based procedure known as flexible sigmoidoscopy which can comfortably be performed without anesthesia or need to drink a bowel preparation.
    • Be safe, discuss your symptoms with your primary care doctor or make an appointment to see one of our Colon and Rectal Surgeons who can diagnose the source of the bleeding.
  • Get screened!
    • Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented. By performing colonoscopy and removing polyps before they can grow into cancer, you can prevent colorectal cancer.
    • Who needs to be screened?
      • For asymptomatic patients without a family history of colorectal cancer, screening usually begins at age 45.
      • Patients with a family history may need to start screening earlier, at age 40 or often younger.
  • How do you get a screening colonoscopy?
    • Colorectal Health Northwest has a direct access colonoscopy program that allows patients to schedule a screening colonoscopy without coming in for an office visit. Click here to find out more or contact our office.
    • Or contact your primary care doctor to discuss screening options.
  • Can I get one of those stool tests instead?
    • There are two stool tests available to detect colorectal cancer that you may have heard about: a FIT test and Cologuard. Both tests can detect colorectal cancer, but they DO NOT detect polyps nearly as well as colonoscopy, Finding and removing polyps can prevent colorectal cancer. Therefore, the stool studies diagnose colon cancer but colonoscopy prevents colon cancer.

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