Let’s face it: No one looks forward to getting a colon cancer screening, but the consequences of putting it off can be serious. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 100,000 new cases of colon cancer in 2019, which could be responsible for 51,000 deaths. Early detection can save many of these lives. Only 42 percent of 1199SEIU members age 50 and older have been screened for colorectal cancer, a rate far too low and one that our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Van H. Dunn, has committed to raising.
Doctors recommend that men and women age 50 and older should be screened every 5 to 10 years, depending on the screening option and on their risk factors, which include:
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- A personal history of receiving radiation to the abdominal or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
Screening methods range from a standard colonoscopy, in which a doctor views your colon through a flexible tube that has a light and small video camera on the end of it, to Cologuard, an at-home test that requires no preparation or changes to your diet or medication that a standard colonoscopy requires. Cologuard does require a prescription, however, and is not meant to replace a colonoscopy if you’re at high risk, so talk with your doctor to see which method is right for you. For more information, visit www.CologuardTest.com.
And while many people can have precancerous or cancerous polyps without experiencing symptoms, there are signs to look out for, such as rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain and unexplained fatigue or weight loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor right away.
Remember: Early detection can help catch colorectal cancer while it’s still treatable.