March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Lovelace Health System is highlighting the need for more Americans to get regular colon cancer screenings through #Timetogetchecked - a month-long initiative aimed at bringing patients education and access to colon cancer screening. With more than 140,000 Americans diagnosed every year and 50,000 dying from colon cancer, more can be done to reduce these numbers. Only 50 percent of Americans who should have a colonoscopy do so. Why only half? Fear is among the top reasons people don’t schedule a regular colon cancer screening - not necessarily because of the results, but because of the fear of the unknown and the process itself. If you have been putting off a colon cancer screening, here are 10 good reasons you should schedule one today.
#1 You’re not getting any younger. Age is one of the biggest risk factors for colon cancer. At the age of 50, your risk goes up dramatically. While it is possible to be diagnosed with colon cancer before the age of 50, 90 percent of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people who are at least 50 years old. Health care providers recommend regular colon cancer screening for anyone 50 to 75 years old.
#2 You’re a meat lover. Lifestyle plays an important role in the risk for developing colon cancer and if you enjoy an occasional steak, we’re not necessarily talking about you. Those who eat a diet high in red meat or processed meats (hot dogs, for example) carry a greater risk for developing colon cancer than those who do not. Five ounces of red meat a day increases your risk about one-third more than those who have one ounce or less a day, according to a 2005 study. Overall, researchers say a diet high in red meat increases your risk by 28 percent, while processed meats increases your risk by 20 percent.
#3 You have more choices. Have you heard there is nothing worse than a colonoscopy? From the preparation the night before, to missing a day of work, if the idea of a colonoscopy has been keeping you from any colon screening tests, you should know there are more options. High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) can detect tiny amounts of blood in the stool that cannot not be seen. This blood could be present due to precancerous or cancerous polyps in the colon. Another colon cancer screening test, sigmoidoscopy, requires less preparation than a colonoscopy and patients are usually not under sedation. Your health care provider can discuss which options may be available to you based on symptoms and your individual situation.
#4 It does not hurt. Although you may have heard a colonoscopy is a dreadful experience, in actuality, the procedure is painless. Many times patients are sedated for the procedure, typically lasting no more than 30 minutes. The worst part, many say, is the preparation. Yes, the preparation is inconvenient, as you need to stay home to clear out your colon the day or night prior to the colonoscopy, but that process is not painful either.
#5 You could wait another eight to ten years. When many people hear the term “regular colon cancer screening” they may think that means once a year. However, depending on the results of your screening, your health care provider may give you a pass for another eight to ten years before you need to come back. You could easily have more regular blood tests or even teeth cleanings, than colon cancer screenings.
#6 It is early detection and prevention. Colon cancer screenings are pretty unique in the fact that those who get them, not only increase their chances of finding cancer early, they also are helping to prevent cancer in the first place. With colonoscopy screening, when precancerous polyps are discovered, they are removed during the procedure. It can take up to 10 to 15 years for a polyp to develop into colorectal cancer. By removing them before they turn into cancer, you are greatly reducing your risk of developing colon cancer.
#7 Those New Year’s resolutions are once again a thing of the past. While you’re intentions were good at the beginning of the year, we’re now into the third month and keeping to some of those resolutions like losing weight, quitting smoking or working out every day, just aren’t going as planned. However, it may not just be a little disappointment or guilt you are dealing with. These are also risk factors for developing colorectal cancer. Not only should you schedule a colon cancer screening, talk to your health care provider about how to make more permanent changes for a healthier lifestyle.
#8 You love your family, but... Family history of precancerous polyps or colon cancer increases your risk for the same. Know your family history and share that with your health care provider. If one or more first-degree family members (parents, sibling or a child) has been affected by colon cancer, than your risk could be double or even higher if one of the first-degree family members was diagnosed before the age of 45.
#9 You’re living with Type 2 diabetes. Anyone with diabetes is at an increased risk for colon cancer and unfortunately, when diagnosed, the prognosis can be less favorable than those without diabetes. Talk to your health care provider to determine when you should begin regular colon cancer screening.
#10 We saved the best for last. It can save your life. Researchers believe as many as 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer can be prevented. Taking the step to be screened detects precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer. When colon cancer is detected early, the outcomes from treatment are much more favorable than when found in later stages.
To schedule a consultation or colon cancer screening with a Lovelace Medical Group gastroenterologist, please click here or call Care Concierge at 505-727-2727. It is #timetogetchecked.