Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women. In fact, according to the most recent statistics available from the Center for Disease Control, in 2010 131,607 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 63,907 women. Furthermore, 52,045 people died from the disease—almost half of them women.
What can you do to protect yourself?
The best protection is really early detection through screening. 90% of colon cancer cases can be cured when found and treated at an early stage, so regular screenings are important. At Silver Cross Hospital, we offer several tests to detect colon cancer including:
- A fecal occult blood test (FOBT). A FOBT is used to find occult or hidden blood in feces. A positive test does not always mean cancer is present. In addition, the FOBT can miss some cancers, so it should not be solely relied on for colorectal cancer screening. Patients receive a test kit and instructions on how to take a stool or feces sample at home. The kit is then returned to the hospital for testing. Beginning at age 50, a FOBT should be performed yearly. Request a FREE Colon Cancer Screening Kit (FOBT).
- Sigmoidoscopy. A slender, hollow, lighted tube, or sigmoidoscope, is connected to a video camera and inserted into the colon through the rectum. The doctor looks at the inside of the rectum and the lower third of the colon for cancer and/or polyps (small growths that can become cancerous). Beginning at age 50, a sigmoidoscopy screening should be performed every 3 to 5 years.
- Colonoscopy. The colonoscopy is considered the gold-standard test for finding colon cancer. A colonoscope is similar to a sigmoidoscope, except the tube is much longer and allows the doctor to see the lining of the entire colon. This is the most thorough exam; it may cause discomfort, but does not usually cause pain. Patients are given a sedative to make them feel relaxed and sleepy during the screening, which takes 15-30 minutes. Beginning at age 50, a colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years.
Your primary doctor can refer you to a gastroenterologist who performs these tests in the state-of-the-art endoscopic suites at Silver Cross Hospital. If you don’t have a regular physician, you can contact our free Physician Referral Service at 1-888-660-HEAL (4325). One of our advisors will determine if you’re a candidate for screening, answer your insurance questions, and help set up your appointment with a gastroenterologist.
50 is the Magic Age
Screenings should start at age 50-if not before. If you have a risk of colon cancer, you may need to start screenings at an earlier age. Check with your physician. Some common risk factors and symptoms include:
- Obesity and lack of exercise
- High-fat diet
- Drinking Alcohol
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Family history of polyps or colon cancer
- Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, or constipation)
- A feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Abdominal discomfort (gas, bloating or cramps)
- Unexplained loss of appetite or weight, weakness, fatigue or jaundice
During Nation Colon Cancer Awareness month, take the time to remind those you love to get screened. Send an e-card.