45 is the New 50
Screening for colorectal cancer is important. The American College of Gastroenterology has guidelines that say that all average-risk adults should start getting screened at age 45. If you are interested in getting screened, please call KCHC at 262-236-7590.
What is Average Risk?
If someone doesn’t have any other risk factors other than their age, they are at average risk. Colorectal cancer can grow silently and without symptoms. Screening provides information on your health before symptoms begin.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. The colon or large bowel is a tube that helps digest the foods you eat. Cancer can form in any part of the large bowel, but it starts in the inner lining. Most colon and rectal cancers start from growths that are not harmful. These growths are called polyps. Polyps that could turn into cancer are called adenomas, but it usually takes more than 10 years for that to happen. Therefore some colon cancer prevention tests can done every 10 years. However, for some people, like those with certain types of colitis, or people with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or adenomas, 10-years is too long so more frequent screening is recommended.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer for both men and women in the United States. However, with proper screening, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Currently, more than 50,000 people die from this type of cancer each year. The lifetime risk of colorectal cancer for men is 1 in 23 and for women is 1 in 25. There are many reasons why this type of cancer is becoming more common, but experts suggest that an unhealthy diet and a lifestyle with little exercise may contribute to this trend.
Many early colorectal cancers do not have any symptoms. That is why it is important to get checked for colorectal cancer. The symptoms of colorectal cancer depend on where the cancer is in the colon or rectum, but sometimes there are no symptoms at all. People with colorectal cancer that has progressed may have different symptoms than those with cancer in an earlier stage. The most common symptom of colorectal cancer is blood in the stool. More advanced cancer may cause a problem when going to the bathroom and pain in the abdomen. Still other cancers of the colon may cause vague abdominal pain that is unlikely to cause an obstruction or to change bowel habits. Other symptoms such as weakness, weight loss, or low iron resulting from chronic blood loss may accompany colon cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor right away.
Men usually get colorectal cancer at an earlier age than women. But women usually live longer than men, so in the end, there are about as many cases of colorectal cancer in men and women. People who have a family history of colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of getting the disease. If someone has two or more close relatives (parent, sibling, or child) with colorectal cancer, or any close relatives diagnosed under age 60, their risk is 3 to 6 times higher than the general population. If someone has one close relative with colorectal cancer at age 60 or older, their risk is about two times greater than that observed in the general population. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you might want to consider getting screened through a special program. Having a family history of adenomas (polyps that are not cancer) is also an important risk factor because they can change over time. If you have had colorectal cancer or adenomas, you are at an increased risk of developing more and should get checked by a doctor using a colonoscopy every 3 to 5 years. If you have had cancer in your uterus (endometrium) or ovaries before age 50, you are also at an increased risk for colorectal cancer and should get checked every 3 to 5 years. Women with a personal history of breast cancer only have a very slight increase in their risk for colorectal cancer, so they don’t need to get checked as often as the other groups.
African Americans have one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the United States. Colorectal cancer rates are 24% higher in African American men and 19% higher in African American women than in whites. More African Americans die from colorectal cancer, with death rates being 47% higher in African American men and 34% higher in African American women than in whites. There are many reasons why cancer rates are different for African Americans and whites, but one reason may be that African Americans often don’t get the same level of care. This can include not seeking care, not getting screened, not getting follow-up care after a diagnosis, and not getting treatment. New data shows that starting screening at age 45 is just as beneficial for all people. To reduce these differences, African Americans are encouraged to get screened.
Adenomas can grow for a long time without any symptoms. Often, by the time symptoms develop, it is too late to cure cancer and it may have spread by that point. Getting checked out earlier can help find and remove potential cancers earlier.
Most cases of colorectal cancer do not have a clear cause. However, most colorectal cancers start from polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths in the colon. If polyps grow without being noticed and are not removed, they might become cancerous. Screening tests can find pre-cancerous polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. 75-90 percent of colorectal cancer can be avoided if precancerous polyps are detected and removed early.
KCHC Discusses Colorectal Cancer Screening on CBS 58
A grant from Kohl’s Healthy Families is helping target vulnerable populations in under-resourced communities in the Kenosha & Racine areas to improve access to colorectal cancer screening and, if necessary, follow-up care.