As we grow older, there are more than a few potential issues to get checked out to ensure overall health and long life. When it comes to colon cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that people of average risk begin getting screenings with colonoscopy at age 45.
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A rise in cases of colorectal cancer in people younger than 50 has led the American Cancer Society to lower the suggested age for colon cancer screening exams. Everyone from the age of 45 to 76, even if in good health, should make the smart decision to get a screening to guarantee that everything is in order. Those over the age of 76 should consult a medical professional to find out if they need screening.
There are a variety of tests available, which we will get into below.
You are at higher risk if you have any of the following:
A history of colorectal cancer or polyps
Family members with colorectal cancer
History of IBS (inflammatory bowel disease)
Suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
History of radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area
If you’re over the age of 45 and of average risk, it’s time to get a colon cancer screening to confirm that everything is in order. You might be wondering what screening entails, so we’ve rounded up the types of procedures and what to expect.
Stool-based tests: when it comes to non-invasive options to detect cancers or polyps in the colon, stool samples are collected and inspected. There are different types:
Fecal immunochemical test: the FIT searches for hidden blood in stool samples. It’s repeated every year and can aid in the detection of polyps or cancers.
Stool DNA test: the non-invasive option for colon cancer screening uses a stool sample to identify DNA changes, which can indicate the presence of cancer.
Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test: the bFOBT also finds hidden blood in stool samples using a chemical reaction, but differs from the FIT in that it can’t tell if the blood is from the colon or another part of the digestive tract. It also must be done once a year.
Visual exams: when doctors need to look inside of the colon and rectum, a visual or structural test is needed to search for abnormalities or polyps. There are two main types:
Colonoscopy: a small tube with a video camera is inserted into the anus and into the rectum and colon, allowing for a visual that doctors can examine. If needed, special instruments to take samples or remove polyps can be inserted as well.
CT colonography: less invasive, this procedure takes a computed tomography (CT scan) of the colon and rectum, showing any abnormalities.
The best way to prevent colon cancer is to get regular screenings if you’re over the age of 45. Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable, so you don’t have to worry about it as long as colon cancer screenings become part of your health regimen.
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