Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 24 for women. However, when caught early, colorectal cancer is 90% treatable.
Dr. Nicholas Battista, a specialist in gastroenterology at Sanford Clinic in Bismarck, North Dakota, answers common questions around colorectal cancer, screening options and reasons to get screened.
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the large intestine (or colon) or the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, these are referred to as colorectal cancers.
Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps, which can become cancerous over time. Screening tests can find polyps, which can then be removed before turning into cancer.
Colorectal screenings are recommended for individuals starting at age 45. The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you age.
Other risk factors include:
Seventy-five percent of colorectal cancers occur with no symptoms. This is why regular screenings are so important. Screenings catch precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat.
Symptoms may include:
In addition to regular screenings, other prevention measures you can take to focus on your health and decrease your risk of colorectal cancer include:
There are two main types of screenings for colorectal cancer: stool sample and colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is the most accurate and efficient screening option available is a colonoscopy. During this procedure, a gastroenterologist uses a lighted scope with a camera to look at the colon and rectum to check for abnormal tissues and cells. If any growths, or ‘polyps’ are found, they can be removed during the procedure before potentially developing into cancer (may include a biopsy if needed). Colonoscopies are a covered procedure for most insurance companies for adults ages 45 and older and should be done every 10 years.
A stool sample, such as FIT (fecal immunochemical test), is an at-home screening test where you collect a sample and return the test kit to the lab or mail it back. The stool is checked by a specialist for blood (not seen by the naked eye). If test is normal, it is recommended that it is done every tear. If test is not normal, you will need a colonoscopy.
To schedule your screening, visit sanfordhealth.org.
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