A Colorectal Cancer Screening Might Help Save Your Life

Just about everyone dreads the word “cancer.” Some cancers, such as colorectal cancer, don’t always present symptoms in the early stages, when it’s most curable. 

That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that every adult between the ages of 50 and 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer. The gold standard screening test is a colonoscopy.

At Hawaii Gastroenterology Specialists, we provide colorectal cancer screening and can remove abnormal growths before they become a serious problem. Here’s some more information we put together about this lifesaving screening.

Statistics about colorectal cancer you should know 

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. When caught early, this cancer can usually be stopped in its tracks. If we find colorectal cancer at the local stage when it hasn’t spread to other areas in your body, the five-year survival rate is an impressive 90%. 

But fewer than 40% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed at the local stage in the US. 

Although the median age for colorectal cancer occurs when people are in their 60s, it can occur earlier. The rate of colorectal cancer in those under age 50 is increasing; cases diagnosed in people under age 50 increased from 6% in 1990 to 11% in 2013

Family history plays a key role in colorectal cancer. If you have a close family member who has had colorectal cancer, you have two to three times the risk of developing it compared to others without a family history of the disease. 

If you have a family history, we recommend that you have your first colonoscopy at age 40 instead of age 50, or 10 years younger than the diagnosis of the youngest relative with the disease. Colon cancer and rectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are also highest in African- Americans

How does a colonoscopy save lives? 

Cells in your body are constantly growing, dividing, and dying. Sometimes gene mutations cause cells to continue to divide when they’re not supposed to, causing an abnormal growth attached to an organ. Within the colon or rectum, these growths are clusters of cells called polyps. 

Many polyps are harmless cell clusters, but over time, some can become cancerous. If we find and remove polyps before they have a chance to become precancerous, usually no further treatment is necessary. But if you don’t get screened, you don’t know the polyps are there. 

About a third of people over the age of 50 in the US haven’t had a colonoscopy. If you’re one of these people, you have a higher risk of colorectal cancer because you may have polyps that are becoming cancerous and aren’t being treated in the early stages. When colon cancer is diagnosed in the final stage, the five-year survival rate plunges to 12-14%

During your colonoscopy, we look for polyps with a colonoscope, a long tube with a camera that shows the lining of your colon and rectum. The instrument blows air into your colon, causing it to expand so we can see it clearly. 

We remove any polyps and send them to a lab. We can also biopsy samples of tissue if we see anything suspicious. 

As with other diseases, treatment for colorectal cancer works best the earlier it’s found. Colorectal cancer is treatable and curable, especially when caught in the early stages. Call or use our online tool to request an appointment for your colonoscopy screening and all of your gastroenterology needs. 

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