Colon Cancer Screening: The Bottom Line
No one likes to hear the dreaded “C” word….”colonoscopy”. However, routine screening for colorectal cancer undoubtedly saves lives by discovering the disease before it reaches an advanced stage. According to the American Cancer Society colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States among men and women combined, yet it’s the most preventable (American Cancer Society, 2017). Finding the disease early, when it is smaller and easier to treat, is key to long-term health. If found at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate for colon cancer is 90%, yet only 40% of patients are diagnosed at an early stage (American Cancer Society, 2017).
If you are age 50 or older with no symptoms*, talking with your doctor about the various options for testing is a must. A colonoscopy is not the only method to check for this deadly, but preventable cancer. One inexpensive and simple option is an at-home kit called a FIT test (Fecal Immunochemical Test) that can be completed by you in the privacy of your own home. The test has the ability to detect blood in stool that may be caused by cancerous tumors. Fit testing is considered medically acceptable screening, however it should be completed annually and may require a colonoscopy if the results are abnormal. Some individuals, such as those with a family history, may be at a higher risk for getting colon cancer than others and it is important you seek the advice of your doctor as to which testing option would be best for you.
The bottom line is anyone can get colon cancer but only you have the power to speak up, get screened and stop the disease in its tracks. For more information about colon cancer, including screening and prevention information contact LCIOutreach@carolinashealthcare.org
*Symptoms of colon cancer may include rectal bleeding, bloody stool, black-colored stool, change in shape of stool, lower stomach cramping, unnecessary urge to have a bowel movement, prolonged constipation or diarrhea and unintentional weight loss. Please seek medical advice immediately for these or any other concerning symptoms.
Source: American Cancer Society. (2017) Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2014-2016.