The best age to have a colorectal cancer screening
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. In the United States alone, more than 151,000 new cases of the disease are expected to be reported this year. Colorectal cancer is also one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in both men and women.
Here are some things to know about colorectal cancer to help you understand the risks and the importance of screening.
Simply put, getting screened is the best way to prevent its onset. In 2021, the recommended age to start screening was lowered from 50 to 45, due to the alarming increase in colorectal cancer cases among those under 50.
Screening can help diagnose colorectal cancer at an early stage – that’s when treatment works best. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 people who are detected and treated early for this cancer are still alive after five years.
Screenings are important because they can help detect polyps. And you may think a colonoscopy is the only type of screening, but there are other options available.
Some things to know before your screening
There is no single “best” colorectal test. The first step is to talk to your doctor about what kind of test might be best for you. It can vary based on your health and genetics, as well as when you were tested last. Some of the types of testing may include:
- Stool tests: A typically annual test to detect blood in the stool, which can sometimes be done at home.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This test involves checking for polyps inside the rectum and the lower third of the colon with a thin tube. It’s usually recommended every five years, or every 10 years, depending on previous screenings.
- Colonoscopy: Similar to a sigmoidoscopy, the doctor uses a thin tube but checks the rectum and all of the colon. This may act as a follow-up test if other tests have found anything unusual. Doctors should also be able to remove any polyps detected during the procedure. Generally, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.
Know the symptoms of colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer doesn’t always have symptoms, particularly at the early stages of the disease. This is why it’s so important to get screened appropriately. When symptoms show, it might include:
- Blood in the stool
- Stomachaches that persist
- Sudden or unexplained weight loss
- Persistent change in your bowel habits
If any of these health issues are present, consider seeing a doctor.
If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your doctor might recommend getting screened earlier. It’s also worth talking to your doctor about earlier screenings if you have a bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Colorectal cancer is treatable in the early stages of diagnosis but as cancer progresses, it may be more difficult to cure. Getting tested for colorectal cancer doesn’t have to be scary. The more information you know, the better, so if you have questions about what screening is best for you, talk to your doctor.