Why Get Screened for Colon Cancer?

This is the first post in a six-part series about colon cancer and the importance of screening. We hope you stay with us.

It is probably safe to say that colorectal cancer screening isn't on the regular rotation of discussion topics for most people, we know that. But here's the deal: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Fact. In 2018, over 140,000 people will be diagnosed, and over one-third of those people will not survive the disease.

Another fact: Colorectal cancer is highly preventable with screening. That's right - preventable.

So, let's talk about it.

Overall, colorectal cancer is more common in people over the age of 50, but recent data indicates that it is now being more frequently diagnosed before 50. Also, most colorectal cancers occur in people with no family history, and many times there are no symptoms, or symptoms are mistakenly attributed to something else. Finally, colorectal cancer affects men and women the same.

Why chance it? With screening, this cancer can be prevented altogether, or caught in its earliest stage when treatment can be most effective.

A few points:

  • Colon cancer almost always starts from precancerous polyps. These polyps do not cause symptoms and are found in 25-30% of people by the age of 50.
  • Screening colonoscopy identifies these polyps so they can be removed before they have the chance to become cancer.
  • Once removed, the polyps are examined in our laboratory and results are provided within days.

Who should get screened? Great question.

  • Average risk folks starting at age 50*. Average risk means that you don't have any symptoms, and you don't have an immediate family member with a history of colon cancer.
  • If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to get screened before age 50.
  • For African Americans, the American College of Gastroenterology  and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy  (aka. the experts) say that you should start screening a little sooner, at age 45.

*As of May, 2018, the American Cancer Society  recommends screening beginning at age 45 for all races of people at average risk. Please check with your insurance company to find out if screening is covered before age 50.