Many Americans don’t follow the colorectal cancer screening recommendations outlined by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Cancer Society. In 2016, the USPSTF updated its guidelines, recommending that adults between the ages of 50 and 75 with an average risk of colorectal cancer should schedule regular screenings with their doctor.
Testing: 1, 2, 3
After your 50th birthday, you should discuss colorectal screening options with your physician. There are multiple types of colorectal cancer screenings, and your physician may recommend different ones depending on your situation and family history. Most of the time, exams take no more than 30 or 45 minutes to complete.
The three most common types of screenings are listed below:
- Stool tests check stool samples for blood or DNA that can be left behind by polyps and small cancers. The three types of stool tests are the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and stool DNA test (sDNA). FOBT is the most commonly used stool test to check for colorectal cancer.
- Stool tests can be performed annually, though the sDNA can be performed every three years depending on the patient. If tests show positive results, a follow-up colonoscopy should be scheduled immediately.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopies are direct visualization tests that check the lower part of the colon for cancer using a tiny, flexible scope.
- Sigmoidoscopies can be performed every five years without a colonoscopy or every 10 years with an annual FIT. If tests show positive results, a follow-up colonoscopy should be scheduled immediately.
- Colonoscopies are another type of direct visualization test that examine the entirety of the colon using a small scope.
- Colonoscopies can be performed every 10 years in lieu of sigmoidoscopies.
- Virtual colonoscopies using CT scans can be used as an alternative to regular colonoscopies, though they should be performed every five years. If tests show positive results, a follow-up colonoscopy should be scheduled immediately.
Physicians may mix and match tests depending on what works best for the patient. For example, someone who takes stool tests annually may not require direct visualization tests as often as other patients.
Colorectal screenings check for polyps, cancer or both. In the case that early stage cancer is found, surgery is often the only treatment required. Later stage cancer may require chemotherapy as well.
Most colorectal cancers form from precancerous polyps. If polyps are found during a colorectal screening, they can be removed during a colonoscopy—sometimes during the screening procedure itself.
Early stage colorectal cancer may not present noticeable symptoms and can go undetected. Don’t let colorectal cancer slip under your radar. Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable disease that can be caught early or stopped in its tracks by regular screenings.
Many risk factors for colorectal cancer, including ethnicity, family history, inflammatory bowel disease and genetic syndromes, cannot be controlled. However, there a few things you can do to help prevent colorectal cancer besides talking to your doctor about screenings:
- Incorporate more physical activity into your routine, working toward a minimum of two and a half hours a week.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and incorporate fiber into your diet while avoiding high-fat foods.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and avoid using any tobacco products.
To schedule your colorectal screening, call 618-798-7600.