“Then precancerous colorectal polyps can be identified and removed through polypectomy, thereby preventing colorectal cancer,” Boardman said. ”Screening means that this testing is done before a person develops any signs or symptoms that may be caused by having a cancer or polyp.”
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening beginning at 50. Earlier screening is recommended for some groups, depending on risk factors. African Americans, for instance, have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer and are encouraged to begin screening at 45.
Because most younger people will not be screened, it is especially important to be aware that symptoms can include abdominal pain, change in normal bowel pattern, unexplained or unintended weight loss, blood in the stool, or dark tarry stools. Fatigue can result from blood leaking from the tumor and leading to anemia, a decrease in oxygen-carrying hemoglobin that is measured by a blood test.
Risk factors include:
» Family history
» Inflammatory bowel disease
» Low-fiber and high-fat diet
» Radiation therapy for cancer
» Hereditary colon cancer syndrome
Boardman said knowing your family health history is important.
“If a patient has a family history of colon cancer, it can help with the type of screening we perform. We’re looking for conditions, and the most common hereditary issue is called Lynch syndrome,” she said. People who have Lynch syndrome have an inherited mutation in a gene that increases the risk of colon cancer, endometrial cancer and several other cancers involving the colon.
Diet and exercise can help prevent colorectal cancer and contribute to overall good health.
”We know focusing our diets more on fruits and vegetables, minimizing the amount of red meat and processed meats like bacon and sausage that have nitrites in them, along with reducing alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco and increasing physical activity can have an impact on our overall health,” Boardman said.
Don’t delay screening. There are options for colorectal cancer screening tests, including those that can be done either at home or in a clinic, that can prevent or detect cancer early. Ask your health care provider which is right for you.