“You don’t want to talk about it; you don’t want to think about it; but it's important,” says Mimi Haley, CEO of Columbia Pacific CCO “If you are over 50, screening for colorectal cancer (cancer of the rectum or colon) is critical. For one reason, it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related death for both men and women.”
People over the age of 50 are most at risk (45 years for African Americans, Native Americans and Alaska Natives or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer).
There is good news, though, according to Haley. You can reduce your risk if you get screened for colorectal cancer starting at the age of 50, or whenever you and your doctor decide that you should start.
“Those who have had a colonoscopy will tell you that it’s not all that uncomfortable,” says Haley
Jen Coury, a researcher and a quality improvement consultant for CareOregon, Columbia Pacific CCO’s parent plan, says there is an even easier alternative for people who are at normal risk.
“The FIT test is a simple, easy-to-use test that can find signs of colon cancer before you have any symptoms,” Jen says. “You can take this test, which looks for blood in the stool, at home.”
Doctors can either give it to a patient at an appointment or send it to the home. After it is used, it is either returned to the doctor or mailed to the lab.
“People just don’t know that it’s an option,” Jen says. “And it’s just as effective to have a yearly FIT test as it is to have a colonoscopy every 10 years.”
People at high risk continue to need a colonoscopy: if a family member has a history of colorectal cancer or a previous test that shows increased risk.
On your own, individuals can build defenses against colorectal cancer by:
- Getting active
- Eating healthily
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight, for those who are overweight
- Taking a daily low-dose aspirin, if one’s doctor approves, which has been shown to reduce polyp formation, an indicator of increased colorectal cancer risk. (Some people cannot take a daily aspirin.)
More information is available about colorectal cancer on these websites: