Colorectal Cancer: Skip the Excuses and Schedule a Screening Today
I’m too young. I dread the prep. I have no family history.
Whatever your reason for avoiding getting screened for colorectal cancer (CRC), it’s not good enough. CRC is one of the most preventable and curable types of cancer. And that’s a big deal when you consider it’s the number two cancer killer in this country.
A cancer we can catch – and cure
Colorectal cancer, found in the large intestine or colon and/or rectum, is more common than you might think. Risk is highest among those age 50 and up, and as you age, your risk climbs. In 2015, 263 people in Maine and 195 people in New Hampshire died of CRC. That year, 1,263 new cases were diagnosed in these two states alone, say statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data shows the needle is slowly moving as medical providers urge more Americans to get screened. From 2014 to 2016, 3.3 million more people were screened for colorectal cancer – a 1.1% increase over prior years. Trouble is, in the 50- to 75-year-old crowd, more than 25% have never been screened, and another 7% are behind schedule. All in all, that means about one-third of adults in the target age group are vulnerable.
How does screening save lives?
Screening stacks the deck in your favor two ways. One, it allows doctors to identify and remove polyps – growths that shouldn’t be there and may become cancerous – before they do any harm. Two, if cancer is found, doctors can treat it right away. That’s important because the sooner cancer is treated, the better the chance for a cure.
“When patients say they’ll wait to have a screening until they have symptoms, I let them know that it’s usually too late to prevent a treatable cancer,” says David Stressler, M.D., a family physician at the Martin’s Point Health Center in Biddeford. “I’m here to answer questions and offer reassurance. My goal is to perform a thorough screening and make their experience with safe and comfortable.”
Testing and timing: Key if you’re age 50 to 75
Health care providers also point out that there are many types of screening, and some are less invasive than you might think. Some tests can even be done at home by taking a stool sample and then sending it to a lab for testing. Others need to be done in a doctor’s office. This includes a flexible sigmoidoscopy, where doctors use a wand to see the inside of the rectum and lower part of the colon. A colonoscopy works the same way, but allows a view of the entire colon. Doctors also sometimes use virtual colonoscopies to capture and review the images they need.
If you’re approaching or over age 50, talk with your doctor about the right screening test for your situation. “I’m here to answer questions and offer reassurance,” adds Dr. Strassler. “My goal is to perform a thorough screening and make your experience safe and comfortable.”
Keep in mind that although these tests are important for everyone between the ages of 50 and 75, some people have an elevated risk and may need testing earlier or more often. This can apply if you have:
- Already had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer – or one of your close relatives has.
- Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that without a family history, you don’t have to worry about CRC. Most cases happen in people with no history of this cancer in their family.
Learn more, schedule a screening
Now that you’re out of excuses, why not call right now? Find the number for the Martin’s Point Health Care Center nearest you here. Or, learn more by visiting The Centers for Disease Control or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636); TTY, 1-888-232-6348.