Cancer Education and Early Detection

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Recommendations Regarding Screening for Colorectal Health

Why Is Colorectal Health Important?

The Facts

Every year, approximately 131,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer; and about 55,000 die from this disease. A majority of these cases occur after the age of 50, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk begin regular screening at age 50. However, anyone with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps in the colon or rectum, or ulcerative colitis is at higher risk for the disease and may need to be examined sooner and more often.

What To Do

When colorectal cancer is detected early, the chances of successful treatment and cure are greatest. Colorectal cancer can be detected early and with little discomfort by using a combination of several procedures.

The fecal occult blood test is a simple at-home procedure that checks a stool sample for hidden blood which can be a sign of cancer, polyps, or other internal disorders.

The digital rectal examination allows a physician to feel if a tumor is present in the rectum. For men, this exam can also help detect prostate cancer.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure using a flexible, hollow, lighted tube that detects cancer or polyps inside the rectum and lower colon. The sigmoidoscope can view almost half of the colon.

Colonoscopy is a similar procedure, except that the colonoscope is long enough to view the entire colon.

The double-contrast barium enema is an x-ray examination that allows a radiologist to view the entire colon.

When

The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk begin regular screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. You and your doctor can choose one of the following three options*

  • Beginning at age 50, have a fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy. Repeat the fecal occult blood test annually and the sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
  • Beginning at age 50, have a colonoscopy at 10-year intervals, or
  • Beginning at age 50, have a double-contrast barium enema every 5 to 10 years.

*Your doctor should perform a digital rectal exam at the same time as sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or double-contrast barium enema.

*American Cancer Society - Colorectal Cancer-Early Detection Saves Lives