According to the American Cancer Society, Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer-related cause of death n the U.S.
Where is it? The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system. Colorectal cancer begins when cells that are not normal grow inside the colon or rectum. The cancer often begins as a small growth called a polyp. Polyps are not cancer, but they can turn into cancer over time.
Who is affected? Risk increases with age, people over age 50 have the highest risk of Colorectal cancer. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke, or have a family history of colorectal cancer.
What are the symptoms? There are usually no early signs or symptoms until the disease becomes more advanced and can display as blood in the stool, change in bowel routines, cramps, weight loss, fatigue, and nausea.
Why is it important? Screening saves lives. Colorectal cancer screening is important because there usually are no symptoms at first. A screening can find cancer early, when it is easiest to treat.
What is the screening? There are several tests that check for signs of colon cancer. Most are familiar with a colonoscopy where the doctor inserts a thin lighted tube into the rectum and colon to check for polyps or cancer while the patient is under anesthesia. However there is a new, less invasive way to do annual screenings called FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test). FIT is a convenient, easy to use at home screening option that allows patients to procure samples without traveling to the doctor’s office. FIT is a great way to overcome common barriers to health screenings like time constraints, lack of insurance, and transportation.
You can do this test every year at home with a kit your health care provider will give you. This test checks for blood in the stool. Ask your doctor about the FIT and get started towards a healthy colon and peace of mind!
Everyone can take these healthy steps to help prevent Colorectal cancer:
- Get screened starting at age 50
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
- Get plenty of physical activity and eat healthy
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This information adapted from the Kentucky Cancer Program with information from the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and the CDC.