December 4, 2020 2:23 pm
Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer for men and women combined in the United States, yet 1 in 3 adults have never received a colon cancer screening. These screenings allow your provider to detect signs of cancer, quite often before you have any symptoms. When found early, colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of roughly 90%.
Your primary care provider (PCP) can help you determine the best time to start receiving regular colonoscopies, but until your next appointment, here are some answers to common questions our patients ask about colorectal cancer screenings.
Do I Really Need a Colon Cancer Screening?
Yes. People of average risk should receive a screening colonoscopy every 10 years. “Average risk” means you do not have a personal or familial history of colon cancer and/or a history of inflammatory bowel disease, as these increase your risk of colon cancer. You’re also at a higher risk for colorectal cancer if you’re African American.
Those at average risk should begin regular colorectal cancer screenings at age 45, as the number of younger patients with colon cancer has risen in the past few years. If you are above-average risk, your PCP may recommend starting earlier or having more frequent screenings.
Read More: Cancer Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Why Are Colonoscopies So Effective for Cancer Screenings?
A colonoscopy is the most thorough screening test available. While other imaging tests only look at part of your colon (and could potentially miss signs of cancer growth), a colonoscopy uses a small camera to examine your entire colon and rectum.
Not only can colonoscopies detect cancer, they can prevent it as well. Polyps are precancerous growths on the interior walls of the colon. It can take as long as 15 years for polyps to develop into cancer. If your provider finds a polyp during your colonoscopy, he or she can remove it before it becomes cancerous.
Read More: 5 First Steps Following a Cancer Diagnosis
How Can My PCP Help Me?
One of the most important cancer-prevention measures you can take is talking with your PCP. Because your PCP is familiar with your health status and history, he or she can advise you on the best schedule for you to follow regarding colorectal cancer screening. In addition, if you have risk factors you can modify, such as your diet or exercise habits, your PCP can help you make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.
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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center