By Dr. Elizabeth Orth
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so it is the perfect time to address this very important topic. Colorectal Cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in both men and women. The good news is that the number of colorectal cancer related deaths is declining. This decline may be due to screening, since the earlier this cancer is found, the better the survival rate. So, while there is still more to be done to combat this cancer, making sure to get a screening test is a good first step.
What is the general screening recommendation?
It is recommended for the average risk person to screen for colorectal cancer starting at 50 years old.
What are the screening options?
Colonoscopy (every 10 years): This is the most highly recommended option since it screens for both polyps, which can become cancerous, and cancer. If polyps are found, they can be removed during the colonoscopy. This test requires bowel prep, is more invasive, and has to be done at a doctor’s office (most of the time it is done by a gastroenterologist), so it is not an attractive option for everyone.
FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test, every year): This test mainly screens for cancer but it is a home collection test (the sample is collected at home and then mailed to the lab), which can be convenient.
Cologuard Stool DNA Test (every 3 years): This is the newest colorectal screening test. While some pre-cancerous conditions can be found, it mainly is used for cancer screening. This is also a home collection test.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years): It is a procedure, which evaluates the lower part of your colon. Done in combination with fecal occult blood testing every 3 years.
What other things may help prevent colorectal cancer?
Some factors that may help prevent colorectal cancer include:
- Diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol.
- Vitamin D3 (especially if your Vitamin D level is low).