Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) continues to affect millions of people worldwide. It’s the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
Can colorectal cancer be prevented? The good news is that regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful tools for preventing colorectal cancer. In many cases, screening can prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer or finding colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective. In fact, studies show that regular screening could prevent one-third of colorectal cancer deaths in the U.S.
Who is most at risk for colorectal cancer? Age is the number-one risk factor: 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases appear in adults 50 years old or older, and the risk for developing this cancer increases with age. Yet, like most disease trends, this isn’t absolute – younger people can get colorectal cancer too. Other risk factors include lifestyle choices, family history, and certain health conditions.
Lifestyle choices. These include obesity, diets high in red and processed meats, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and inactivity.
Family history. People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) who has colorectal cancer have two to three times risk of developing this disease. A personal or family history of polyps (adenomas) also puts you at higher risk.
Health conditions. Your risk of colorectal cancer increases if you have conditions including type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
For those with an average risk of colorectal cancer, regular screening beginning at age 45 is key.
Adults who are at average risk for colorectal cancer used to start having regular colonoscopies when they turned 50. Now the timeline has changed: The American Cancer Society’s newest guidelines recommend that colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 45 and continue through age 75.
People at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests. If you’re at an increased risk, ask your physician about when you should be screened.
Several test options are available for colorectal cancer screening, including colonoscopy (a visual exam of the large intestine), virtual colonoscopy (an x-ray exam of the colon), sigmoidoscopy (a visual exam of the lower part of the colon), and tests that detect blood in the stool. Talk to your health care provider about which ones might be good options for you.
Mount Nittany Health cancer services provides comprehensive cancer care using the most innovative cancer therapies combined with compassionate, patient-centered care to treat every aspect of the disease.
The Cancer Care Partnership between Mount Nittany Health and the Penn State Cancer Institute provides state-of-the-art, personalized care for outpatient hematology, medical oncology, and infusion services. Our patients benefit from the combined resources and expertise of Mount Nittany Health, the community's trusted healthcare provider, and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the region's leading academic health center.
Your healthcare provider can help you determine what screening schedule and which screening tests are best for you at this time. Contact 844.278,4600 or visit mountnittany.org/primarycare.