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Screenings Can Save Your Life

Colorectal cancer (i.e., cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Each year there are approximately 130,000 new cases of colorectal cancer. For men and women, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20 or 5%. It is estimated that about 50,000 people will die this year from the disease. If everyone aged 50 and older had regular screening tests, at least 60% of these deaths could be prevented.

Colorectal cancer is diagnosed most often in those 50 years of age or older, and the risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. Some people may be considered high risk for getting colorectal cancer:

So, how does screening save lives? Well, colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp, or an abnormal growth, in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests also allow clinicians to detect colorectal cancer in an early stage when the chance of cure is greater.

Here at Physicians East, our dedicated gastroenterology staff helps our patients and their families complete the colorectal screening tests recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It is currently recommended that colorectal screening take place for men and women aged 50 to 75 years of age. Recommended tests that can be performed by Physicians East providers include:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – This test uses a chemical guaiac or antibodies to find blood in the stool.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – During this test, a physician places a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into the rectum to check for polyps or cancer in the rectum and the lower third of the colon. This may be performed in combination with the FOBT and is recommended every 5 years.
  • Colonoscopy – During this test, a physician places a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube into the rectum to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. This test also enables physicians to remove polyps and some cancers at the same time. It is highly recommended that individuals at a normal risk for colon cancer have their first colonoscopy at age 50 and schedule additional screenings at least every 10 years after that. If you are at a higher risk of developing cancer or if cancer has occurred in your family, regular screening should begin earlier based on your doctor's referral.

If you have questions about colorectal cancer screening, please call our Physicians East GI Specialty Center at 252-413-6260, and our staff can help you understand the best screening options for you.