Colon cancer is more serious and more common than you may think. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer (which together make up colorectal cancer) in 2021.
Kudos to older adults for being vigilant with screenings and making healthy changes to lower their lifestyle-related risk factors. Overall colorectal cancer rates have dropped slightly each year since the mid-1980s. However, this positive downward trend among older adults (keep up the good work!) has masked an alarming upward trend in colorectal cancer rates among younger adults. For them, colorectal cancer rates have risen every year since about the mid-1990s, with a 2% annual increase from 2012 to 2016 in people under 50. Actor Chadwick Boseman was only 43 when he lost his life to colon cancer in August 2020 (and under 40 when he was diagnosed), highlighting the importance of screening for younger people.
Additionally, the effects of the coronavirus crisis on colorectal cancer rates have yet to be seen. Many people canceled or rescheduled elective procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a substantial decline in cancer screenings. We want to assure you that’s it’s both necessary and safe to schedule your regular cancer screening appointments.
Three good reasons not to skip your colonoscopy.
Early detection saves lives. During a colonoscopy, doctors examine the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope: a flexible, finger-width tube fitted with a light and a small video camera on the end. Specialized instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to identify and remove any polyps and pre-cancerous lesions.
Colon prep has improved a lot in recent years. Whether you’ve had a colonoscopy and remember drinking what felt like gallons of liquid—a mixture of laxatives and clear fluids—or you’ve only heard the stories, you’ll be happy to know that things have changed. You’ll start with a clear diet the day before your procedure, but the prep fluid is now flavored and can be split into portions so you don’t have to drink it all at once.
Colon cancer screening is quick. A colonoscopy takes only about 30 minutes, during which you are comfortably sedated. You won’t remember anything after you wake up and most healthy patients won’t need another colonoscopy for years.
Who should get a colonoscopy?
Talk to your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy if you are:
- 45 years of age or older
- Older than 40 with a family history of colon or rectal cancer
- Noticing changes in your bowel movements, including bleeding or pain, regardless of your age
With so many benefits, there’s no reason to avoid this painless, quick and potentially lifesaving procedure.
Learn more about colorectal cancer screenings and cancer prevention in these videos:
For more information about our oncology services, call askSARAH at (972) 202-8877.
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