The American Cancer Society’s newest guidelines recommend that colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 45. If you are around the age of 45 years old and your doctors advises that you should schedule a colorectal screening, you may feel overwhelmed and have some questions about the procedure. Knowing what to expect can greatly ease the discomfort you may be feeling.
Screenings are often completed out of precaution to detect types of cancer in individuals, even if they have not exhibited any symptoms. For this reason, scheduling your cancer screenings as recommended by your physician is important. Several tests can be used to screen for colorectal cancer; these tests can be divided into 2 main groups:
- Stool-based tests: These tests check the stool (feces) for signs of cancer. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but they may be required by your doctor to be completed on a more frequent basis than other types of screenings.
- Visual (structural) exams: As the name suggests, a structural exam looks at the structure of the colon and rectum for any abnormal anatomical areas. This is done either with a scope, which is a tube-like instrument with a light and tiny video camera on the end that put into the rectum or with special imaging (x-ray) tests. This may sound uncomfortable, but don’t worry – this procedure is painless for an individual to undergo.
There are also different categories of risk associated with colon cancer. These risk factors are also divided into two groups. For screening, people are at average risk if they do not have:
- A family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- A personal history of undergoing radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
People at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests. If you or a loved one has any of the aforementioned risk factors, they may be more susceptible to colorectal cancer.
Above all else, remember that it is important to schedule your health screenings. Screening is an important step in the prevention and early intervention of several diseases, including colorectal cancer. Talk to your health care provider about which test might be a good option for you, and to your insurance provider about your coverage.
BTC of New Bedford is now enrolling for a clinical trial on colorectal cancer. Learn more today to see if you qualify for enrollment!