The number of people getting colorectal cancer has gone down over the past few years – a trend experts say is due to more people getting screened. Even so, colorectal cancer is still the country’s third-leading killer because many people avoid testing.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and now is a good time to learn about colorectal cancer and your screening options.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the colon or rectum, which is part of the body’s digestive system. Most of these cancers start as polyps, or growths that may become cancer over time.
Why is colorectal screening important?
Regular screening helps providers find polyps, and remove them before they become cancer.
"Colon cancer screening is a slam dunk," adds Todd Crocenzi, M.D., director of gastrointestinal cancer research at Providence Cancer Center. As Dr. Crocenzi asserts, "Among all the ways people get tested for the presence of cancer, he said, "Colon cancer screening has the strongest evidence to support its effectiveness."
You have options when it comes to colorectal cancer screenings.
- A colonoscopy. This screening procedure allows your doctor to look at the entire colon. If polyps are found during the test, they can often be removed during the procedure. If no polyps are found, you may not need a screening for another 10 years.
- A fecal immunochemical test (FIT). The FIT is used to find signs of blood in the stool. A FIT can be taken at home and should be done every year. If the FIT result is positive for blood in the stool, your provider may recommend a colonoscopy to take a closer look at your colon.
Talk with your primary care provider about the pros and cons of these screening options, additional testing options and which one is best for you.