Colorectal cancer doesn’t get the same amount of attention as some high-profile cancers, but it should. Many women are surprised to learn that colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Found most often in individuals who are 50 and older, this common form of cancer is highly preventable. In fact, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with regular screening.
Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives
Screening for colorectal cancer can help find cancer at an early stage and decrease your chance of dying from it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75 years. Women who are at a higher risk of developing this form of cancer should be screened at a younger age and may need more frequent screening.
The colonoscopy procedure is painless with a low risk of complications. Written instructions, provided by your doctor, prescribe a solution required to cleanse the colon. Fortunately, colonoscopy prep has improved over the years and the days of consuming large amounts of an unpleasant tasting laxative prior to the procedure are over. During the colonoscopy, your physician looks at the interior walls of the rectum and colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. If polyps are discovered, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination and polyps can be removed.
“Simply put, screening colonoscopy saves lives,” says Dr. David Rivadeneira, Director of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Huntington Hospital. “Colorectal cancer is extremely prevalent, yet screening is fast and very safe with a very low complication rate.”
Colorectal Screening Tests
While colonoscopy remains the gold standard screening test for colorectal cancer, there are new tests now being introduced that use advanced DNA technology to find elevated levels of altered DNA which could be associated with cancer or pre-cancer. These tests include Cologuard, which is a single stool sample kit that patients can use at home.
Other colorectal cancer screening tests that are currently available include:
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test – Checks for hidden blood in stool samples.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Looks at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon.
It’s important to discuss with your doctor which test is best for your specific needs.
What Else Can You Do to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
Along with getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer, there are also lifestyle decisions you can make to lower your risk.
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Drink alcohol only moderately, if not at all
- Limit red meat, especially processed meat
- Get the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
- Take a multivitamin with folate
Want to learn more about colorectal cancer prevention? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist. For questions about colorectal cancer and screenings, please contact Dr. David Rivadeneira at 631-470-1450.