When detected early, Colorectal Cancer is one of the most curable and preventable of cancers
Many people are embarrassed to talk about Colorectal Cancer, even with their doctors. But silence can be deadly. When detected early, it’s one of the most curable and preventable cancers, yet it’s the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States when men and women are combined, and 23 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 are not being regularly screened. Call your Hamakua or Kohala clinic to schedule an appointment.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal Cancer forms in the tissue of the colon or rectum. It affects men and women equally. It develops when abnormal cells in the colon and rectum grow into polyps, which eventually turn into cancer. It usually takes about 10 to 15 years for polyps to turn into cancer, and there are often no visible symptoms until the disease is in its late stages. Getting screened is the only way to help curb this deadly cancer.
Why should I get screened?
Colorectal Cancer is one of the slowest-progressing cancers. Since it takes so long to develop, polyps can be easily detected and removed with a colonoscopy. Even if the polyp has already turned into cancer, it’s much easier to treat in its early stages. Preventing Colorectal Cancer or finding it early doesn’t have to be expensive. There are simple, affordable tests available.
There are several screening methods for Colorectal Cancer, including simple take-home options. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested and the right method for you:
- A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) checks for blood in the stool
- During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a doctor inserts a short, thin, lighted tube into the rectum to check for polyps in the rectum and lower colon.
- A colonoscopy is similar to a sigmoidoscopy except a longer tube checks the entire colon. Most polyps are removed during this process.
How often should I get tested?
Based on national guidelines, most men and women should begin routine screenings at age 50 (or age 45 for African Americans). Those with a family history or risk factors for Colorectal Cancer should get tested earlier or more often. Inflammatory Bowel Disease and disorders that cause frequent polyp growth are major risk factors.
FOBTs are usually performed annually. Sigmoidoscopies are usually done every five years. Colonoscopies should be performed every 10 years, but your doctor may recommend more-frequent procedures if they discover abnormalities in an earlier test.
Most health insurance plans cover lifesaving preventive tests. Use the health benefits you are paying for to get screened.
What else can I do?
Colonoscopies are the best weapon against Colorectal Cancer. But you can help lower your risk of developing it and many diseases by eating a healthy diet and staying physically active.
High-fiber diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains have been linked to lower risks of colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Several studies have shown that excessive alcohol use and obesity can increase your risk.
Does it hurt?
During a colonoscopy, you may be given a sedative and the procedure only takes about 30 minutes. Most people are back to work the next day. The most unpleasant part is preparing for the test by cleaning out your bowels. Even this process has become much easier over the years, and the other two screening methods are simple.
Why don’t people get tested?
People give lots of excuses to avoid colonoscopies. Some are too busy, don’t like the preparation involved, or are afraid that it will hurt. Many people are uncomfortable exposing or discussing their bottoms. But with a nearly 100 percent success rate of preventing or treating early stages of Colorectal Cancer with colonoscopies, no excuse is good enough.
MOST HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS COVER LIFESAVING PREVENTATIVE TESTS. USE THE HEALTH BENEFITS YOU ARE ALREADY PAYING FOR TO GET SCREENED! As a community-based health center, Hamakua-Kohala Health provides comprehensive primary and preventative healthcare to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status.