Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though 90 percent of people who are diagnosed through early testing can be cured.
Colon cancer typically develops with no symptoms, so undergoing a colonoscopy at age 45 is recommend for most people as an initial risk assessment.
Once you have established a baseline, you should include this procedure on your long-term health to-do list. Other tests your physician might recommend include:
Blood stool test
Virtual colonoscopy done via computed tomography
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer are not always specific to colon cancer or present themselves immediately, as they could be present in other benign conditions.
However, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowl habits, bleeding or unusual fatigue are all signs you should see a specialist immediately, regardless of your age.
What are the recommendations for testing?
The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals with average risk for colorectal cancer should begin regular screening at age 45.
Those ages 76 through 85 should discuss whether to continue screening with their health care provider.
Individuals with high risk for developing colorectal cancer may need to begin screening before age 45.
“The most critical risk factor for colon cancer for those under the age of 45 is family history and history of certain genetic mutations that may predispose one to get colon cancer at a younger age,” says Sameet Shah, M.D., gastroenterologist with Mountainside Medical Group.
“Young people with first-degree relatives who have had colon cancer are at the highest risk and should be aware of any possible signs or symptoms.”
Other risk factors include those with a family history of colorectal cancer or certain polyps, those who have had colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps, individuals with inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, and those who have had other cancers treated with radiation in the abdomen or pelvic area.
Preparing for Your Colonoscopy
You might be nervous when you discuss a colonoscopy with your provider.
“The most uncomfortable part of a colon screening is typically the laxative given before the test, which helps clean the colon so any growths and abnormalities can be detected,” says S. Charles Oh, M.D, gastroenterologist with Mountainside Medical Group.
“During the actual test, patients are comfortably sedated, and the screening lasts just 15 to 30 minutes. A colonoscopy remains the gold standard for catching precancerous polyps early.”
For more information about colon prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about the cause of colon cancer and results showing that vitamin D levels in blood is linked to your colon cancer risk.
Written by Hackensack Meridian Health.