Prevent Colon Cancer with Regular Screenings

Colorectal cancer, often referred to as “colon cancer” is the third leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women in the United States. However, due to early detection including screening, the death rate from colon cancer has been decreasing for several decades.

Why is colorectal cancer screening so important?

Regular screening is one of the most powerful defenses against colorectal cancer. Screening can detect colon cancer in the early stages, before it has spread, and can make treatment more successful. In fact, due to the slow development rate of polyps (non-cancerous growths that can develop into cancer), regular screening can even prevent colon cancer as doctors can find and remove the polyps before they become cancerous.

Screening guidelines for early detection

Unfortunately, only about 1 in 3 people in the US who should be tested for colon cancer have been screened.  Who exactly should be screened, and when?

• According to the American Cancer Society, people of average risk of developing colon cancer should start regular screenings at age 45.  This can be done either with stool-based or visual test (colonoscopy) and should continue through the age of 75.

• For those age 76 to 85, the decision to be screened should be based on that person’s preferences, overall health, life expectancy and prior screening history.

• People over age 85 should no longer get a colorectal cancer screening.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer

In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms or signs of colon cancer (making regular screenings even more important). When symptoms are present however, they may cause one or more of the following:

• Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation

• A feeling of needing to have a bowel movement not relieved

by actually having one

• Rectal bleeding

• Cramping or abdominal pain

• Fatigue or unexplained weight loss

It should be noted that many of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer so it is important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be determined and treated, if needed.

If you have questions about screening for colorectal or any other type of cancer,

please contact the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional at 985.493.4008.