March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance estimates that 149,500 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2021. Indeed, it is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among Americans across all genders.
The good news is that colorectal cancer is easily preventable with regular screening. Cancer screening procedures check for early signs of cancer before a patient has symptoms, and can catch cancers in their earliest and most treatable stages. In short, regular screenings save lives.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon (part of the large intestine) or the rectum, or both. Most colorectal cancers start out as polyps, which are growths that can become cancerous if not removed.
Who should be screened?
All adults over the age of 45 should be screened for colorectal cancer. If you have a family history of this type of cancer, you should start getting screened at age 40 or ten years before the age of the youngest case in your immediate family. For example, if a parent or sibling has had colorectal cancer and they were diagnosed at age 48, you should start getting screened at age 38.
Types of screening
There are multiple ways to screen for colorectal cancer, with different advantages and disadvantages. Ask your healthcare provider which option makes the most sense for you based on your medical record and family history. Three common types of colorectal cancer screening include:
Stool Test–FIT Test: This test checks for blood in the stool, an early indicator of colorectal cancer. Your provider will give you a small test card to take home. You put a small amount of stool on the card at home, and then drop the test off at the clinic or return it by mail. FIT tests are done every year, and are covered by insurance. If you don’t have insurance, Neighborhood HealthSource will help cover the cost of this screening.
Stool Test–Cologuard: This test is sent to you in the mail and like the FIT test, you complete it at home according to the instructions provided. UPS will then pick up your test. This test is done every 3 years, and is covered by insurance. Our clinics offer low cost options if you are uninsured.
Colonoscopy: This procedure is done in person at a specialist’s office. It requires a change in diet for the week before the test, as well as a medication taken the day of. A doctor will examine your colon with a tube with camera and lights to check for polyps. This screening is done every 10 years if your results are normal. Colonoscopies are more expensive than take-home screening options, but are usually covered by insurance.
Whichever option your provider recommends, it is important that you are screened regularly for colorectal cancer. To learn more about getting up-to-date on your screenings today, give us a call at 612-588-9411 and make an appointment to meet with a provider.