Why Anyone Over 50 Should Be Screened for Colon Cancer

Mar 17 • 2016

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Like other cancers, early detection is extremely important. When found at an early stage, colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of almost 90 percent. Because it can take up to 15 years for a polyp to become cancerous, getting screened is crucial.

The most common screening option is a colonoscopy as it is the only screening test that can prevent many types of colorectal cancer. There is no anesthesia for this procedure, but you will be administered medication ahead of time to ensure that you are relaxed. When you undergo this screening, the doctor will examine the lining of your colon. He will look for anything suspicious, such as tumors or polyps. This is done by inserting a flexible tube with a small video camera into your colon. This is done through the rectum, but because of the medication that is given to the patient beforehand; most people fall asleep and do not have any recollection of the actual procedure.

Starting at age 50, it is recommended that all men and women should have a colonoscopy. If you are at a higher risk for colon cancer, you may want to speak to your doctor about when you should begin getting a screening. Increased risk factors include:

  • History of colon cancer or polyps personally or in your family
  • Being older than 50 years of age
  • African American heritage
  • Chronic colon disease like Crohn’s
  • Genetic syndromes
  • A diet that is high in fat and low in fiber
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking or heavy alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Previous use of radiation therapy to treat cancer

After your first colonoscopy, your doctor will provide a personalized recommendation for how often you should return for screenings.

While there are other options when it comes to colon cancer screening, a colonoscopy is the most thorough. If a colonoscopy is not an option for you, ask your doctor to recommend the next best option.