If you were born in 1963, you will turn the big 5-0 this year. Even if you aren’t ready to sign up for an AARP membership card, you should undergo a colorectal cancer screening. That is because your chances of developing the disease increase considerably after reaching the half century mark. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, about 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are at least 50-years-old.
Other risk factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal cancer include:
- Having a personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
- Having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer
- Being African-American or an Ashkenazi Jew
- Eating a diet high in fat
- Being physically inactive
- Smoking and heavy alcohol use
- Type 2 diabetes
People at increased risk for colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about being screened for the disease before the age of 50. Colorectal cancer may be diagnosed after symptoms appear, but most people with early stage disease will not experience any symptoms.
There are five different screening tests available to help detect polyps and cancer.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
This test may be performed every year to check for tiny amounts of blood in the stool. The FOBT involves placing a small amount of stool from three consecutive bowel movements on a test card that is then taken to a doctor’s office or laboratory for testing.
A sigmoidoscopy is an examination that allows the doctor to look inside the rectum and lower (sigmoid) colon for polyps using a narrow, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope. If any polyps are found during the exam, they can be removed in a procedure called a polypectomy. A sigmoidoscopy is recommended every five years.
Double Contrast Barium Enema
This test, which is also called a lower gastrointestinal (GI) series, involves giving the patient an enema with a barium solution followed by an injection of air into the rectum. A series of X-rays are then taken to show any existing polyps or abnormalities. This test may be necessary every five years.
During this procedure, a long, lighted tube, called a colonoscope, is used to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, suspicious areas, or cancer. Polyps or tissue samples may be removed during a colonoscopy, which is recommended every 10 years.
Digital Rectal Exam
During a digital rectal exam (DRE) a doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormal lumps or areas. A DRE may be part of a routine physical examination.
For more information about colorectal cancer screening, talk with your doctor or call 1-888-457-5203 for a free referral to a specialist near you.