Scared to get screened? Consider the benefits.

With colorectal cancer, early detection is critical. Are you someone who has shied away from getting screened because you feel fine? Feeling fine does not necessarily mean there's not a reason to be concerned. Colorectal cancer rarely produces symptoms until its later stages, when the cancer is typically more difficult to treat.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a preventable cancer that usually starts as an abnormal growth, or polyp. The polyp takes root in the lining of the colon and rectum and eventually spreads to the center of the digestive tract. Polyps tend to develop slowly over time, sometimes taking decades to turn into cancer. Some may not develop into cancer. Getting screened early on can help identify and, if necessary, remove polyps. A recent study proves that removing polyps prevents death from colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer among men and women together. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 145,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancers this year. Of those diagnosed, nearly 52,000 will lose their life to this highly preventable cancer. The risk for developing colorectal cancer in your lifetime is 1 in 20.

Why risk your life?

Think of all the reasons you have to live. Now, get over your fears, misperceptions and excuses, and get screened. Getting screened means a physician will look for something you might not know is there. This is largely true for colorectal cancer, which in its earliest stages usually has no symptoms. In many cases, a screening test can find or prevent colorectal cancer. If you're 50 or older, or you have a family history of colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy is the most recommended test because it looks at the entire length of the colon. We acknowledge, however, that getting screened - whether by colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy or fecal occult blood test - is better than never getting tested at all.

Screening test options

If you're not sure which test is right for you, check out our helpful decision-making tool. Then make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your options and preference.

Screening benefits

To learn more about your plan coverage for these tests, or to take advantage of some of our new interactive health features, visit myProvidence.org. (Note: myProvidence is not currently available for Medicare or Medicaid members.) For questions regarding plan coverage, call customer service at 503-574-7500 or 800-878-4445.

If you've scheduled, or plan to schedule, a colonoscopy, be prepared:

Take along a friend or family member. You'll need someone to drive you to and from your appointment. Not only is it required, but you'll be woozy afterward and someone should be present for the doctor's debrief.

Follow up with the specialist. If you don't receive a follow-up letter or call from the doctor who performed your colonoscopy, close the loop. Make sure you get the details about what, if anything, was found, and what your next steps should be.

Expect to feel drained. When you get home, take it easy, rest, drink plenty of water and eat when you feel like it. You spent the day before your colonoscopy cleaning out your system, and maybe the day before that on a liquids-only diet - both of which may make you a bit dehydrated. You'll also be feeling the aftereffects of anesthesia.

Tips provided by Jonathan Vinson, M.D., physician with Providence Medical Group-The Plaza

Additional resources

For help making the decision that's right for you, visit www.providence.org/coloncancer.