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Colorectal Cancer Screenings Must Remain a Priority

Did you know that one of the most prevalent and deadly cancers in the United States is colorectal cancer?

In fact, not counting some types of skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and is the third-leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the country, according to the CDC.

This year’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is more important than ever, especially due to the fear surrounding contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, which may have prevented some individuals from screening, diagnosis, and treatment for non-COVID diseases.

With colorectal cancer, a preventive lifestyle and getting your recommended screenings are key.

When it comes to your colon health, age plays an important factor. According to the National Cancer Institute, the risk of colorectal cancer increases after the age of 50 and most cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed after age 50.

Detecting colorectal cancer early is important. When colorectal cancer is found at the localized stage, meaning, there is no sign the cancer has spread outside of the colon or the rectum, there is a 90 percent relative survival rate based on the American Cancer Society’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data.

Screening is as important now as it was before Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and before the pandemic.

It’s recommended that all adults aged 45 to 75 years be screened for colorectal cancer and adults 75 or older should be selectively screened; considering the patient’s overall health, prior screening history, and patient preferences.

With COVID-19 and variants through the pandemic, patients might think that a hospital is the last place they should go now. However, hospitals and clinics are following protocols to sanitize, socially distance, and keep infected people in isolated areas to ensure patients are safe and feel comfortable.

Here are the colorectal cancer screening tests recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:

  • Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) kits – an in-home colon cancer screening test to detect blood in the stool by measuring antibodies
  • FIT-DNA – combines the FIT with a test that detects altered DNA in the stool
  • High-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood tests (gFOBT) a test that detects blood in the stool based on chemical detection of blood
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy detects polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon
  • Colonoscopy exam a tiny camera on a flexible tube transmits images and allows your doctor to see the inside of the colon to discover any growths or abnormalities such as polyps and cancers
  • Virtual colonoscopy uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon

Lifestyle approaches, especially related to diet and exercise, can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer SocietyBeing overweight and physically inactive, or consuming high amounts of alcohol, red meat and processed meat, have all been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. 

In short, with colorectal cancer, a preventive lifestyle and getting your recommended screenings are key! So being prepared and aware of your options is vital to staying healthy. Through screenings, understanding risk factors, and engaging in a healthy lifestyle and healthier choices, lives can be saved. Why not start now?


Dr Jayme TishonDr. Jayme Tishon is a gastroenterologist with Optum Colorado. She joined Optum’s Digestive Disease Clinic in June 2020.