Ways to prevent and screen for colorectal cancer during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the US for men and women; with men thirty percent more likely to be diagnosed than women and at a younger age according to the American Cancer Society. There is good news, though, unlike other cancers, colorectal cancer is 90% beatable when caught early; and it’s preventable.

Multicare Rockwood Clinic oncologist Dr. Corliss Newman cautions patients from using screening measures advertised as less invasive that see you sending away stool to test for blood.

Dr. Newman explains, “the theory behind why those work is because tumors occasionally bleed and you may be able to catch blood in your stool – but you might not. Tumors don’t bleed all the time, they can bleed intermittently and if you’re doing a random test once a year you can easily miss that.”

She also cautions against similar DNA kits that test stool over time for the same reason.

Colonoscopies, Dr. Newman explains, are the way to go as it looks at the entire colon and you don’t have to worry about a false positive or negative like you might in a sample kit.

So when should you sign up for a colonoscopy?

Of course, if you have any symptoms of colorectal cancer like rectal bleeding, changes in bowel movements that last more than a few days or extreme fatigue, you should see your doctor immediately.

The recommended age to start screenings is age 50, or 10 years prior to the age your family member was diagnosed. For example, if they were diagnosed at age 55, you should go in at 45.

As for how often you need to get a colonoscopy done, it depends on how the screening goes. It could be every 10 years, every 5 years or every year.