Don't put off a life-saving colorectal cancer screeningJanuary 18, 2023
Taking time for regular colorectal cancer screenings is one of the most valuable ways you can protect your health and peace of mind.
That’s because colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer among adults, but it often doesn’t show any symptoms, especially at first.
The good news is that the survival rate for colorectal cancer is about 90% when it’s caught early, before it’s had the chance to spread. Regular screenings are the No. 1 way to detect it, but many adults who need screenings don’t get them. Making these important tests a priority is about staying healthy and strong for the ones you love.
Men and women of any race or ethnicity can get colorectal cancer, and it affects some groups differently than others.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer starts when growths called polyps in the colon or rectum turn into cancer. The colon and rectum are parts of your digestive system that work together to turn the food your body doesn’t need into waste. Colorectal cancer is also sometimes called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the polyps start. Polyps don’t always turn into cancer, and if they do, it often takes many years. That’s why regular screenings are so effective — they can detect polyps when they’re still harmless and easy for a doctor to remove.
Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?
Anyone can get colorectal cancer, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity. Some factors that increase the risk of colorectal cancer are out of your control, like age, a family history of colorectal cancer, or having certain inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
However, you can take several actions to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and protect your whole health at the same time:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Quit or avoid smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
When should I start getting colorectal cancer screenings?
The American Cancer Society recommends that most adults have regular colorectal cancer screenings from age 45 to age 75. You should talk to your doctor about when and how often you should be tested, since they may recommend starting before 45 and testing more frequently if you have certain risk factors. How often you need colorectal cancer screenings will also depend on which type of test you receive.
What should I know about the different options for colorectal cancer screenings?
There are many ways to test for colorectal cancer, but they mainly fall under these two categories:
- Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is the most common way to screen for colorectal cancer. During a colonoscopy, a doctor will check for and remove polyps in the colon and rectum. The entire screening takes less than an hour, and you’ll get a sedative to help you go to sleep. If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, your doctor will typically recommend you have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
- Home testing kits: Home testing kits such as Insure® One™ and other fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits are an easier and less invasive alternative to colonoscopies. The kits come with everything you need to collect a sample, and they’re quick and simple to use. You’ll mail the sample to a lab, where they can look for signs of cancer. If the lab finds anything abnormal, your doctor will likely ask you to come in for a colonoscopy. Depending on the kit, your doctor will typically tell you to use them once a year to once every five years.
Your doctor can help you decide which kind of test is best for you. Learn more about the different kinds of colorectal cancer screenings from the American Cancer Society.
Put your health first
If you’re due for a colorectal cancer screening, now’s the time to protect your health. Talk to your doctor about what kind of screening is right for you.