When Should You Be Screened?
If your doctor recommends screening for colorectal cancer, it does not necessarily mean that you have colorectal cancer.
A screening is meant to identify precancerous polyps so that they can be biopsied or removed before they turn into cancer. Recommended screenings can also identify early stages of colorectal cancer, allowing you to begin treatment early on when it has the highest success rate.
If you are age 50 or older, you should undergo recommended screening for colorectal cancer until you turn 75 according to the CDC. However, early screening may be indicated by your doctor if you:
- Have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer in the past.
- Have close family members with a history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- Have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
- Have a genetic condition that increases your chance of colon cancer, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
Colorectal cancer can take you from some of the greatest moments of your life, but it doesn’t have to. Screening is critical in preventing and detecting a number of treatable diseases like colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor when you should begin screening.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States and one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. In many cases, it can be prevented with proactive screening measures.
Common Screening Myths
The following statements are common reasons that people avoid screening for colorectal cancer, based on common myths about screening. Don’t let these common myths prevent you from getting screened regularly.
Only men get colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is just as common in women as it is in men; it is not more prevalent in men.
Approximately 140,000 Americans—men and women—are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year, and over 50,000 die from it.
I don’t have a family history, so I’m not at risk.
Although your risk may be higher if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, most people with colorectal cancer have no family history of the disease.
The most common factor in developing colorectal cancer is simply getting older. Your risks increase at about age 50 and continue to increase as you get older. This is why it is important to undergo recommended screenings from age 50 onward.
There is no way to prevent colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is preventable in many cases.
Regular screenings can detect small growths called polyps, which can eventually cause colorectal cancer. If the polyp is detected early on, it can be removed before colorectal cancer develops.
You can also make lifestyle changes to lower your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding tobacco use can lower your risk of colorectal cancer. A healthy diet can also help. Try to eat at least a minimum of 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily, have whole grains instead of refined grain products, and limit red meat and processed meats.
I don’t have any symptoms, so I have nothing to worry about.
People with polyps rarely have symptoms, and many people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer also do not have symptoms.
If you don’t get tested until you have symptoms, you miss the opportunity to prevent colon cancer or detect it before it grows and spreads.