Colon Cancer: Catching It Early
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends getting a colon cancer screening beginning at age 45 for people at average risk.
Don’t put yourself at an increased risk. Know the facts:
- Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cancer killer in the U.S., but it can be prevented.
- It affects both men and women and most often occurs in people with no family history.
- Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially early on.
- African Americans have the highest incidence and rate of death of all racial groups.
Warning signs and risk factors
Common risk factors include increasing age, a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, having inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or a genetic syndrome, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis.
Getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended can reduce your risk of developing this disease. Screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Symptoms of colon cancer are numerous, including:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark
- Unexplained weight loss
- Cramps or abdominal pain
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) each year.
- FIT-DNA test once every one or three years.
- Sigmoidoscopy every five years.
- Sigmoidoscopy every ten years with FIT every year.
- CT colonography every five years.
- Colonoscopy (beginning at age 50, then every 10 years until age 75; more often if polyps are found).
Don’t become a statistic — speak with your doctor to determine which colorectal cancer screening test is right for you.