The importance of colorectal cancer screening

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Dr. Mario Chenal of North Star Lodge Cancer Care Center appeared on KIT 1280 on March 11, 2014, to discuss the importance of colorectal cancer screening. If everyone 50 years old or older was regularly screened, thousands of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

·        Colorectal cancer – also called colon or rectal cancer – happens when cells that are not normal grow in your colon or rectum. These cells grow together and form tumors. Colon polyps are very common, and most of them do not turn into cancer.

  • Treatment for colorectal cancer works best when the cancer is found early. Screening tests can detect or prevent this cancer, but only about half of people older than 50 are screened.
  • Some people who are younger than 50 need regular tests if their medical history puts them at increased risk for colorectal cancer.


What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

  • Most cases begin as polyps, which are small growths inside the colon or rectum
  • The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.
  • If you’re 50 years old or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life.
  • Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented.
  • Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.
  • Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. Symptoms for colorectal cancer may include:
    • Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)
    • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
    • Losing weight and you don’t know why
    • A change in your bowel habits, such as more frequent stools or a feeling that your bowels are not emptying completely
    • Begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then keep getting screened regularly.
    • Some people have a higher risk because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes.
    • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer for all people until they turn 75 years old, and for some people when they are older than 75. If you are in this age group, ask your doctor if you should be screened.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk?

What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

  • These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you’re having any of these symptoms, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.

When Should You Begin to Get Screened?


What Are the Screening Tests for Colorectal Cancer?

  • Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some are used alone; others are used in combination with each other.
    • Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
    • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), also known as a stool test (every year).
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years) with high-sensitivity FOBT (every 3 years).

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