CDC – March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Colorectal cancer screenings can save lives. Everyone who is 50 years old or older should be screened regularly and this could prevent as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer.
Among the cancers affecting both women and men, colorectal or cancer of the colon or rectum is the second leading cause of death in the US. Each year around 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer with more than 50,000 people dying from it.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
As you get older the risk of getting colorectal cancer increases. More than 90% of cases occur in people aged 50 years or older. Getting screenings can save lives, however many people aren’t being screened according to the national guidelines.
If you or someone you know is 50 years or older getting screened for colorectal cancer could save your life in two ways:
- Getting a colorectal screening test can find precancerous polyps which can be removed before turning into cancer preventing the disease.
- Tests can also detect colorectal cancer early enough so that treatment can often lead to a cure!
What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps do not always cause symptoms especially in the beginning, and in some cases you could have one or both without even knowing. This is why the screening test is so important.
Symptoms may include:
- Blood in or on the stool or bowel movement.
- Stomach pain or aches and craps that don’t go away.
- Unexplained weight loss.
These symptoms however can be caused by something other than cancer, but if you are having any of these the only way to know for sure is to be checked by a physician.
When Should You Begin Screenings ?
Screenings for colorectal cancer should begin soon after turning 50 and regularly until 75 years of age. After 75, please consult your doctor for a recommended schedule. Some people have a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer.
If you have any of the following your risk may be increased:
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Personal or family history of colorectal polyps or cancer.
- Genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer or Lynch syndrome.
If you have a higher risk talk to your doctor about how often and when to get tested.
What Are the Screening Tests for Colorectal Cancer?
There are several tests available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some tests can be used alone or in a combination with others. Only you and your doctor can decide which is best for you. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends these tests to screen for colorectal cancer:
- Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year)
- Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years).
How Can I Pay for Screening Tests?
Most insurance plans as well as Medicare help pay for screenings. Check your plan to see what you are covered for. For Medicare coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE OR 1-800-633-4227.
CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program provides access to colorectal cancer screening to low-income, under-insured, or uninsured men and women aged 50–64 years in 25 states and four tribes.
Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign
CDC’s Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign gives men and women 50 years and older the information needed about the importance of getting regular colorectal cancer screening tests. Meryl Streep, multiple Academy Award® winner has joined the Screen for Life campaign appearing in PSA talking about how much there is in life that we can’t control, but says here’s something we can: colorectal cancer. She describes her own screening experience, and urges men and women to get screened beginning at age 50.
These new PSAs are the latest additions to a rich suite of Screen for Life resources for patients and health professionals. Print materials, including fact sheets, brochures, and posters, can be viewed, printed, and ordered online. Television and radio public service announcements can be viewed and heard online.