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Screening for Colon Cancer: Importance Of Testing For Early Detection

By on April 1, 2024 0 18Views

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum. It is the third most common cancer in both men and women, and early detection plays a crucial role in improving survival rates.

With a recent change to the guidance of colorectal cancer testing, there are millions of eligible Americans who are now eligible to receive a colorectal cancer screening.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 50,000 individuals in the United States will succumb to colorectal cancer this year. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance reports that this disease disproportionately impacts Black Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Hispanic Americans.

The World Health Organization reports that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with lung cancer being the top cause, responsible for 660,000 deaths or 6.8% of all cancer-related deaths.

According to the latest estimate, the total population of Americans who are eligible for screening is approximately 117 million. However, a significant portion of this number, ranging from 44 to 60 million, have not yet been screened.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has updated their recommended screening ages, extending the age range from 50 to 45.

To understand the importance of early detection it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of colon cancer.

Colon cancer develops when abnormal cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. These abnormal cells can form a tumor, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. The exact cause of colon cancer is unknown, but several factors can increase the risk of developing the disease.

Importance of Early Detection

Early detection of colon cancer greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. When colon cancer is detected in its early stages, before it has spread to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is around 90%. However, if the cancer has already spread to distant organs, the five-year survival rate drops to about 14%. This significant difference in survival rates highlights the importance of early detection.

Screening for colon cancer can help detect precancerous polyps or early-stage cancer, making it easier to treat and potentially prevent the development of advanced cancer. Regular screening can also reduce the risk of dying from colon cancer by up to 60%. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the risk factors for colon cancer and identify the right candidates for early detection.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

Several risk factors can increase an individual’s chances of developing colon cancer. These include:

  1. Age: The risk of colon cancer increases with age, particularly after the age of 50. It is recommended to start regular screening at this age.
  2. Family History: Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis, have an increased risk of developing the disease.
  3. Personal History: People who have previously had colon cancer or certain types of polyps are at higher risk of developing the disease again.
  4. Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in red and processed meats, lack of physical activity, obesity, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption, can increase the risk of colon cancer.

Screening Guidelines for Colon Cancer

To identify the right candidates for early detection, it is important to follow the recommended screening guidelines for colon cancer. These guidelines may vary slightly depending on the organization, but generally, they include:

  1. Average Risk Individuals: For individuals at average risk of colon cancer, screening should begin at the age of 45. The most common screening method is a colonoscopy, which is typically repeated every 10 years. If a pre-cancerous polyp is found, patients will be advised to return for regular testing every 5 years.
  2. High-Risk Individuals: High-risk individuals, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, may need to start screening earlier and undergo more frequent screening. Other screening methods, such as flexible sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, or stool tests, may be recommended based on individual circumstances.

Identifying the Right Candidates for Early Detection

To identify the right candidates for early detection, it is important to assess individual risk factors. The most common risk factor is age, and individuals over the age of 45 should consider screening. However, other risk factors, such as family history, personal history, and lifestyle choices, should also be taken into account.

Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or certain genetic conditions may need to start screening earlier and undergo more frequent screening. Similarly, those with a personal history of colon cancer or certain types of polyps should be closely monitored. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a poor diet and lack of physical activity, can also increase the risk of colon cancer and should be addressed.

Screening for colon cancer is a crucial step in early detection and prevention of the disease. Anyone over the age of 45 now has access to early testing and should speak with their doctor about starting the process. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and survival. Take the necessary steps to protect your health and discuss colon cancer screening with your healthcare provider.