Did you know that with screening, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers?

February 21, 2022

Cancer Gastroenterology Health Screenings
Medical illustration of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women and the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the US. But even though it’s so common, the number of people being diagnosed with and dying from the disease has decreased thanks to colon cancer screenings.

“In 1992, the death rate from colorectal cancer was almost 24 per 100,000. By 2018 it dropped to 13 per 100,000. This improvement has coincided with increased screening,” explains Ashutosh Naniwadekar, M.D., a board-certified, fellowship trained gastroenterologist with Riverside.

“These screening tests are giving people years back by detecting and, with colonoscopy, even preventing colorectal cancer from developing. All major medical groups recommend screening, and it’s covered by insurance plans,” says Dr. Naniwadekar. “Cost is not usually a barrier to getting this beneficial health screening completed.”

Screening remains vital as even today approximately 4.1 percent of men and women (that is one in 25 people) will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2016–2018 data.

Colorectal cancer screenings are now easier than ever with more testing options

Even with so much evidence that colorectal cancer screening is a life-saving test, many people are still not getting screened as recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about one-third of adults in the U.S. ages 50-75 are not making appointments.

There are many reasons why people aren’t getting screened for colorectal cancer. A survey from the American Cancer Society found that one of the biggest factors is embarrassment and anxiety.

“People don’t want to talk to their doctor about that part of the body, which is understandable. And some are also apprehensive about getting a colonoscopy because of stories they’ve heard,” says Dr. Naniwadekar.

If this sounds like you, you should know that there are now more options for colorectal cancer screening. Depending on your individual risk and health history, you may be able to complete screening without undergoing a colonoscopy. This is great news for getting more people screened, as some studies show you’re more likely to complete colon cancer screening when you can pick the test you prefer.

Riverside offers three screening options

Colorectal cancer can be detected early through screening. At Riverside, we offer three colorectal screening test options for you. These include colonoscopy as well as stool tests you complete at home. All of these tests are effective ‘with varying degrees of sensitivities’ in detecting colon cancer. If you're considered average risk for colorectal cancer, yearly stool tests are an option. If your stool test is abnormal, you will need to undergo a colonoscopy. For patients who are considered high risk a colonoscopy is the best test.

You and your provider should work together to choose the right test for you. 

  • Colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for screening.  This is the only test available that allows your doctor to see and examine the entire length of your colon. If a polyp is discovered, your doctor can take a piece of it for further testing and/or remove it completely during the procedure. A colonoscopy helps prevent cancer by removing polyps before they have a chance to become cancerous. This test is done in a clinic or hospital. Your doctor inserts a scope (a small, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end) into your large intestine through the anus. You’re placed under sedation during the entire test, so you stay comfortable and relaxed. Though you must prepare by completely emptying your colon before a colonoscopy, it’s the only test that allows your doctor to see and examine the entire length of your colon and remove polyps. If your results come back normal, you won’t need another colonoscopy for another 10 years.
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT). The FIT looks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of polyps or colorectal cancer. This is a simple stool test that you can complete in the privacy of your own home. You repeat the FIT once a year as long as your results come back normal. If you receive abnormal results, you will need to undergo a colonoscopy. 
  • Stool DNA test. This test looks for cells in the stool that contain abnormal sections of DNA. Colorectal cancers and polyps often contain cells with abnormal sections of DNA, and these cells are shed into the stool where this test may be able to detect them. Like the FIT, the stool DNA test is noninvasive. You only need to repeat it every three years as long as you receive normal results. If your results come back abnormal, you will then need to undergo a colonoscopy. The only stool DNA test currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is Cologuard. This is the test we use at Riverside.

Your doctor is your best source for information about each test. With the correct information in light of your health history, you can choose the best screening option for your needs.

When to schedule your first colorectal cancer screening

If you’re 45 years old or older, now is the time to get screened for colon cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends regular screening for adults between the ages of 45 and 75. Adults between the ages of 76 and 85 should talk to their doctor about when or if to screen.

In some cases, you may need to begin colorectal cancer screening before you turn 45. Factors that warrant earlier or more frequent screening include:

  • Having a close relative who has had polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Being diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Being diagnosed with a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome

If any of these apply to you, make an appointment soon to talk to your doctor about when to schedule your first screening test and how often you should get tested.

Don’t delay. Schedule your colon cancer screening today

With so many new and convenient colon cancer screening options available now, you can absolutely get this important test done in a way that’s comfortable for you. No more excuses! Make this life-saving appointment today. Call Riverside scheduling at 757-316-5777. Or schedule an appointment online.

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