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March is colorectal cancer awareness month. According to the World Health Organization, colon cancer is the third most common cancer in males and the second most common cancer in females. There are over 150,000 new cases of colon cancer every year. Colon cancer risk increases after age 40.
Risk factors for colon cancer include: genetics (having a close family member that has been diagnosed with colon cancer), personal history of colon polyps, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, history of abdominal radiation therapy, diabetes, alcohol use, tobacco use, excess consumption of processed meats, and obesity. The best way to prevent and manage colon cancer is to stay up to date on your colon cancer screening. Previously, it was recommended to begin colon cancer screening at age 50. However, given an increased risk in patients between 40 and 50 years old, current guidelines recommend screening at age 45. If you have additional risk factors, such as history of polyps, family history of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, etc., you may need to be screened for colon cancer sooner. Staying up to date on colon cancer screening reduces mortality rates and allows for better treatment options and improved prognosis, as it is caught earlier in the disease process.
There are different ways to screen for colon cancer. The most common is a colonoscopy. Follow up is typically every 10 years, though those who have more risk factors or history of polyps may be recommended to repeat a colonoscopy sooner. You can also do stool cards annually to test for blood in your stools. Cologuard is another option that is utilized every 3 years. Occasionally, a CT colonography test can be performed, and this is performed every 5 years. It is best to discuss which option is best for you with your primary care provider.
If you have any further questions, we will be happy to assist you and help you stay up to date on your cancer screenings.
UpToDate, (WoltersKluwer Health, 2023)