Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S., but can be prevented and treated with screenings. Colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies, and proctoscopies are examples of these essential screenings that you can get right here at South Plains Rural Health to protect you from cancer or identify it early, so you can be successfully treated.
These screenings involve unpleasant prep and can be uncomfortable, but are critical to good preventive healthcare.
Colon cancer risks
In 2018, the American Cancer Society reported 97,220 new cases of colon cancer and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer. Estimations put the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer in 2018 at 50,630.
You have about a 6% risk of getting colorectal cancer in your lifetime, and your risk increases as you age. If you had a parent with colorectal cancer, diagnosed after the age of 50, your risk jumps to 15%; if your parent was diagnosed before the age of 50, your risk of getting the disease is 24%.
Colorectal screenings are generally recommended at five-year intervals starting at the age of 50. If you have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, you may start these screenings earlier. And, if any test shows precancerous or cancerous tissue, you’ll need more frequent screenings.
Signs you need a screening
Screenings are routine, relative to your age, but sometimes you need a screening due to certain symptoms. This screening may be scheduled anytime if you have warning signs. Common reasons the team here might recommend a colorectal screening include rectal bleeding, bloody or tarry stool, or changes in bowel habits. Bowel habit changes are instances such as diarrhea that can’t be attributed to a stomach bug or food poisoning and lasts more than a few days or the sudden onset of chronic constipation, even though your fiber intake hasn’t markedly changed.
Types of screenings
A colonoscopy involves using a scope to investigate the health of your colon. While you’re under deep sedation, our doctors place a long, flexible tube with a camera through your rectum into the colon. We’re looking for irregularities in the colon lining, known as polyps. Not all polyps are cancerous, but colon cancer always comes from a polyp. So, if we find them – we can remove them, and you won’t develop colon cancer. Improvements in screenings have led to fewer deaths from colon cancer in recent years.
Other screenings include a sigmoidoscopy, which exams the rectum and last two feet of the colon. The sigmoidoscopy is less invasive and requires no sedation, so it may be easier to undergo – but it could miss polyps in the upper part of the colonl. Other screening tests include an anoscopy, to view the anus only, or a proctoscopy, to view the rectum only. Usually these tests aren’t routine screenings, but are used only if you have specific symptoms.
Colorectal screenings seem inconvenient and unpleasant, but provide critical information about the health of your colon and lower digestive tract. Don’t skip these screenings. Call our office, or book an appointment online if you have a higher-than-normal risk of colon cancer or are 50 or older and ready for your screening.