Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, but many adults, unfortunately, are not getting screened as recommended. Colorectal cancer – also known as colon cancer – claimed the lives of more than 51,000 people in 2019. While this is a staggering number, it’s also alarming that 1 in 3 adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are not getting properly screened as recommended.
March is National Colorectal Month, and it is an opportune time to recognize the severity of the disease and understand how a screening may save you or a loved one.
The American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons states the importance of becoming more aware of Colorectal Cancer:
“National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month...offers healthcare providers...a valuable opportunity to educate their community about these diseases and promote awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screening, prevention, and treatment.”
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about colon cancer.
Genetic Predispositions to Colorectal Cancer
It is commonly recommended that a baseline colonoscopy be performed at age 50. If results come back normal, the next one should be scheduled 10 years out or in whatever time frame is prescribed by the doctor.
There are, however, notable exceptions:
- People of African American descent have a much higher likelihood of colon cancer. Physicians may, therefore, recommend a baseline colonoscopy at age 45 or earlier.
- People with certain hereditary conditions, like adenomatous polyposis or other inherited illnesses, may have an increased chance of developing colorectal cancer. Earlier screening may be recommended for them as well.
Family history is the most decisive factor in determining what tests are done and when. An understanding of your genetic profile will unlock vital health information.
According to U.S. News & World Report, “It's crucial to keep in mind that a significant risk factor, and one of the most important pieces of information that's often overlooked by both patients and providers, is family history – not only a family history of colorectal or other cancers, but also a family history of advanced colorectal polyps (large polyps a centimeter in size or greater, or polyps with a specific appearance under the microscope) in first-degree relatives (defined as siblings, parents, and children).”
If you have a first-degree relative diagnosed with colorectal cancer or polyps, you may have an increased risk of developing the condition, especially if the close relative received a diagnosis at a young age. If so, your doctor will probably recommend you begin screening 10 years before the age of the youngest familial case’s diagnosis.
Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
In addition to susceptibilities due to family history, other variables can play a role in contributing to this type of cancer:
- Personal history of other types of cancer or of colorectal polyps
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Alcohol consumption
- Not enough exercise
- Eating red and processed meats
At Visiting Angels, we are in the business of caring for and supporting families. That’s why we want to remind you to talk with one another and share health information. Know your risk factors and take the steps to get ahead of the curve by having all appropriate tests done per doctor’s recommendations. And whenever you or your loved one needs transportation to any appointments, we’ll be there for you.
If you’re interested in more information about our compassionate care, contact your nearest Visiting Angels office today or call 800-365-4189.