Colorectal cancer may not be something you think about on a regular basis, and the thought of getting screened for the disease may have you thinking “not me — I don’t want to do that!” But the fact is that getting regular colorectal cancer screenings is one of the best and easiest things you can do to prevent this disease.
Unfortunately, most people don’t get early warning signs if they have colorectal cancer. Even if there are signs, they may resemble other conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome or even hemorrhoids, so it may not spur them to have a doctor check for cancer. That’s why many people who have colorectal cancer (and don’t get screened regularly) don’t find out until the cancer is advanced — and why colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer behind lung cancer.
“Colorectal cancer can be preventable and treatable, but the key is to detect it early. That’s why screenings are so vital,” said Amit A. Choksi, MD, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. “Don’t wait to talk with your physician about which screening is best for you, especially if you are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer.”
When should I begin colorectal cancer screenings?
Nearly 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people who are age 50 or older, but cases in younger adults have been rising. Doctors now recommend that people at average risk for colorectal cancer get screened beginning at age 45. If you are at an increased risk for the disease, it may be recommended that you begin screening at a younger age. Even if you have no signs of colorectal cancer, you should still be screened.
“Depending on your personal situation, screenings may be recommended every five to 10 years or more frequently,” said Dayaker R. Mallipeddi, MD, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. “Your physician can help you develop a plan of action.”
Why is screening so important?
“With screenings, we actually have a chance to prevent colorectal cancer,” said Srikar S. Reddy, MD, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. “If we find a polyp, a precancerous, asymptomatic growth, we can easily remove them and halt the development of colorectal cancer.”
Since colorectal cancer typically doesn’t result in noticeable symptoms until more advanced stages, it may be too late to treat it successfully if you wait until you have symptoms. Actress Kirstie Alley was diagnosed only shortly before she passed away in December 2022 from the disease. Chadwick Boseman, “Black Panther” film star, lost his battle with colon cancer at the age of 43 after being diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease a few years earlier.
Colorectal cancer screenings can find cancer at an early stage before symptoms may be present. This makes it more easily treatable. Screenings may also detect abnormalities that may become cancerous in the future, such as polyps. If found, these can be removed before cancer develops. When this happens, the screening can be considered to have prevented the disease from occurring at all.
Do I have options when it comes to colorectal cancer screenings?
The gold standard of colorectal cancer screening is a colonoscopy, but there are other screening options as well. These include:
- Fecal occult blood test
- DNA stool test
Maury Regional Health (MRH) offers colonoscopy at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Marshall Medical Center in Lewisburg and Wayne Medical Center in Waynesboro, as well as Maury Regional Mid-South Endoscopy Center in Columbia.
OK, I’m in! What should I do next?
“The best thing to do is to talk to your physician about your options for colorectal cancer screenings,” said Robert W. McClure, MD, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. “Together, you can determine the best screening for you.”
Keep in mind that colorectal cancer screening is not a one-time thing. Depending on the type of screening you have, the findings of the screening and other risk factors, your physician will let you know how often you should repeat screenings once you begin.
To learn more about colorectal cancer screenings at MRH, visit MauryRegional.com/ColorectalCancer.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 19, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor