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Colorectal Screening Identifies Disease for Early, More Successful Treatment

older couple talking about colorectal health

What are the Benefits of Colorectal Screening?

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States, but it is the second leading cause of death from cancer because it often isn’t found until the disease has progressed. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month because research shows colorectal cancer is highly preventable and treatable when detected early.

Cancer screenings are used by doctors to look for disease before a person has symptoms. For example, screenings can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—that can be removed before they turn into cancer.

Both men and women are at risk for colorectal cancer. Screening should begin at the age of 50, unless you have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors such as a history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity or Type 2 diabetes. If you think you might be at a higher risk, ask your doctor if you should be screened for colorectal cancer before turning 50.

Types of colorectal screening

Network Health recommends everyone between 50 and 75 years old have one of the following screenings. Talk to your personal doctor about which is the best option for you.

  • The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a lab test used to check stool samples for hidden (occult) blood. Occult blood in the stool may indicate colon cancer or polyps in the colon or rectum—though not all cancers or polyps bleed. This can be completed in the privacy of your home but needs to be sent to a lab for results in a timely manner. This test should be completed yearly.
  • FIT-DNA Test, ordered per a prescription from your personal doctor, this also tests for blood in the stool. Colon cancer cells often have DNA mutations (changes) in certain genes. Cells from colon cancers or polyps with these mutations often get into the stool, where tests may be able to detect them. This test is recommended every three years.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that allows your personal doctor to examine the rectum and the lower (sigmoid) colon. The flexible sigmoidoscope is a tube 60 cm long which is inserted gently into the anus and advanced slowly into the rectum and the lower colon. This test is recommended every five years.
  • A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During a colonoscopy, a long flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. This test is recommended every 10 years unless your doctor advises otherwise based on medical or family history.

For more information, visit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. If you have any questions about colorectal cancer screenings, call 920-720-1212.

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