FRANKLIN – Everyone ages 50 -75 needs to get screened for colorectal cancer - screening saves lives. If everyone aged 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Franklin VNA & Hospice wants you to get screened because early detection is key to effective treatment. Often there are no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, which is likely why it’s the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Currently there are three different screening tests, Colonoscopy, Flexible Sigmoidoscopy and Stool Testing. You and your healthcare provider can pick the one that will work the best for you.
• A colonoscopy lets the doctor look inside your rectum and colon to check for cancer or polyps (growths that can turn into cancer). To do a colonoscopy, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube into your anus. The test is done at a hospital or clinic. If the result is normal, you can wait 10 years before getting tested again. If polyps are found during the test, the doctor can usually remove them, but you might need another colonoscopy in 3 to 5 years.
• A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy lets the doctor look inside the rectum and lower part of the colon to check for cancer or polyps (growths that can turn into cancer). To do one, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube into your anus. This test is like a colonoscopy, but it only looks at part of your colon and has a smaller risk of complications. If the result is normal, you can wait 5 years before getting tested again – or 10 years if you get this test combined with the stool test. If the result isn’t normal, you’ll need a follow-up colonoscopy to find out why.
• A Stool Test looks at your stool (poop) instead of looking directly at your colon. For these tests, you use a special kit to collect a small amount of your stool at home and return it to your doctor or a lab. If the result is normal, you can wait 1 year before taking the test again. If the result isn’t normal, you’ll need a follow-up colonoscopy to find out why.
Now that you have some good information, talk to your healthcare provider and schedule the test that will be the best for you.
While screening is important, reducing your risk is also key.
• If you smoke, quit! Smoking increases your risk for a whole bunch of bad stuff, including colorectal cancer. Even secondhand smoke increases the risk for those around you. Try www.quitnownh.org for free resources and support.
• Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon cancer. Eat less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats), which have been linked with an increased risk of colon cancer.
• Get regular exercise. If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Increasing your activity may help reduce your risk.