Colorectal cancer screening saves lives

  • Published
  • By Colonel (Dr.) David C. Hall
  • 81st Medical Group
If you're 50 years old or older, you may be due or overdue for a colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) screening test. Getting a screening test could save your life.

Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests are available which allow detection of precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they develop into cancer. Colorectal screening tests also can detect cancer early which increases the chances of successful treatment and decreases the risks of dying from the cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people will die from it.

The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people who are age 50 years of age or older, but many people are not being screened as recommended by national guidelines. If everyone age 50 years old or older were screened regularly, as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends adults age 50 to 75 years screen using one of the following screening methods:

· Screening colonoscopy every 10 years. A colonoscopy is considered the "gold standard" screening test for colorectal cancer and allows a physician to see the lining of the rectum and the entire colon. This procedure detects most small polyps and almost all large polyps and cancers.

· Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, with high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing every 3 years. A sigmoidoscopy allows a physician to directly view the lining of the rectum and lower part of the colon. This procedure can identify polyps and cancers in the lower part of the colon and rectum with a high degree of accuracy.

· Annual screening with high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing.

There are individuals younger than age 50 who may be at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome).

If you are 50 years or older or younger than 50 years old but think you may be at higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, make an appointment to speak with your healthcare provider about getting screened. For eligible beneficiaries, the Keesler Medical Center team is standing by ready to assist you with your colorectal cancer screening needs.