You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to think about it. But it's important. 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.
Another reason is that 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. 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.
Jen Coury, a researcher and a quality improvement consultant for CareOregon, 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.”
Your doctor can either give it to you at an appointment or send it to your home. After you use it, you either return it to the doctor or mail it 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.”
If your FIT test shows a positive result, your provider will likely schedule a full colonoscopy. People at high risk continue to need a colonoscopy: if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or a previous test that showed increased risk.
On your own, you can build your defenses against colorectal cancer by:
- Getting active
- Eating healthily
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Taking a daily low-dose aspirin, which has been shown to reduce polyp formation, an indicator of increased colorectal cancer risk. (Talk with your doctor for sure about this, because some people cannot take a daily aspirin.)
You can learn more about colorectal cancer on these web sites: