An elderly man in the bedroom is clutching his stomach, experiencing the pain of colon cancer

Do I Need a Colon Cancer Screening?

You feel fearful, apprehensive, and perhaps even a little embarrassed, but you know that you need to ask your doctor about your potential need for a colon cancer screening. Although it may be difficult, failing to ask your doctor relevant questions about this topic can pose significant risks. Early detection is crucial in combating colon cancer, so it’s important to gather the courage to ask your doctor for guidance before the situation worsens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults begin getting routine colon cancer screenings beginning at age 45. It is also recommended that the patient continue to get routine colon cancer screenings from age 45 to 75. Those between the ages of 75 and 86 should consult with their doctor about the potential need for additional screenings as well. Routine colorectal cancer screenings can help detect the disease in its earliest stages, enabling more effective treatment and a stronger fight against it.

Symptoms and Signs of Colon Cancer

A family history of colorectal cancer might make you concerned that you could also develop this issue. Even if you don’t have a family history of colorectal cancer, it’s important to realize that it can still affect you if you neglect routine screenings. Some of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer to be on the lookout for include the following:

  • A major and constant change in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Cramps, gas, and/or bloating that won’t go away

If you experience these symptoms, it is crucial to consult a doctor for a proper evaluation and tests to determine the cause.

Understanding Colon Cancer

Just as the name indicates, colon cancer begins in the colon or in the rectum of a patient. The American Cancer Society states:

Early detection increases the likelihood of effective treatment. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.

This form of cancer poses significant health risks to the patient, particularly if that patient does not receive treatment as soon as possible. Medical professionals highly recommend routine screenings for this form of cancer to attempt to detect it early. Detecting the disease early increases the chances of effective treatment.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

Anyone can develop colon cancer, but there are certain factors that put one more at risk of developing this disease. Some of the factors are within your control and others are not, but you should know about all of them regardless so you can assess your risk levels. Cancer.net reports the following related to the risk factors associated with the potential development of colon cancer:

  • Age – Your odds of developing colorectal cancer increase as you get older. Start screenings at age 45, unless advised earlier by your doctor, and maintain a regular screening schedule to monitor for colorectal cancer development.
  • Family History – A family history of colorectal cancer will put you at a higher risk level than someone who has no personal history of this. Genetic factors contribute to colorectal cancer risk, and individuals with a family history have a higher risk level.
  • Gender – Men have a higher chance of developing colon cancer than women do.
  • Race – African-Americans have a higher rate of developing colon cancer than other races in the United States.
  • Diet – Ongoing research is exploring additional dietary factors, but no conclusive evidence has yet pointed in a specific direction.
  • Smoking – There is evidence to suggest that those who smoke are more likely to develop colon cancer than those who do not. Therefore, there is an established link between smoking and higher rates of colon cancer.

These are only a few known risk factors associated with the development of colon cancer, and there may be others that remain undiscovered.

Importance of Early Detection

Early-stage colorectal cancer is highly treatable and may cause few or even no symptoms within the patient. Catching it early is crucial to minimizing the severity of the impacts. Therefore, individuals aged 45 or older should undergo routine colonoscopy procedures. Virtual colonoscopy and stool DNA tests are alternative procedures that can aid in the early detection of colorectal cancer. Your doctor will recommend the appropriate tests based on their knowledge of your specific medical history.

Recommended Age for Screening

Once again, you should start to get a colon cancer screening at age 45 and then every five to ten years after that. Your precise timeframe may be shortened if your doctor recommends that you get screenings more frequently than that. He or she might recommend this if you have a family history or personal history of colorectal cancer.

Lifestyle Choices for Reducing the Risk

There are certain aspects of your health that you can take control of to help reduce your personal risk of developing colorectal cancer. For example, you should certainly do the following:

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit your alcohol consumption
  • Get into a regular exercise routine
  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight
  • Change your diet as necessary

These are all steps that you can take today to reduce your odds of developing colon cancer. While these steps cannot guarantee the prevention of colon cancer, they can help reduce your risks. Regular screenings are still essential for early detection. Take care of yourself and lead a healthier and safer life.

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