Published on March 04, 2016

Dress In Blue: Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

By Katharine Radziewicz RN, BA, OCN, Oncology Nurse Navigator

Katharine RadziewiczMarch is colon cancer awareness month. The nationally recognized blue star represents the eternal memory of the people whose lives have been lost to the disease, support for all those colorectal cancer survivors and the shining hope for a future free of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is different than most cancers. Even though it’s the second leading cause of death among men and women combined of all racial and ethnic groups nationwide, it's largely preventable and beatable. Bottom line: SCREENING SAVES LIVES. But it’s important to know that the American Cancer Society estimates that this year 136,830 people will be diagnosed and 50,310 will die from this disease, which accounts for nearly 10% of cancer deaths in the U.S. On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 20 (5%), however, this varies widely according to individual "Risk Factors". 1 in 3 adults aged 50-75 are NOT up to date with recommended colorectal cancer screening.

What can we do to prevent this disease and why is screening/prevention so important?

Colonoscopy Screening is the #1 way to prevent colorectal cancer because it finds cancer in its early and most treatable stages. Most people need to start their screening at 50 years of age, or earlier if they have risk factors. Typically, colorectal cancer begins as a slow-growing, small growth in the colon or rectum. Over time, these pre-cancerous growths – called polyps – can turn into cancer. You’ll often hear colonoscopies referred to as the “Gold Standard” of screening. And yes, they’re painless. The inside of the rectum and entire colon are examined using a long, lighted tube called a colonoscope. The night before the test- one needs to do “prep”. The prep is no walk in the park, but most would agree that a night in the bathroom is better than months or years going through chemo. Our team at Tully Center will make sure you’re equipped with everything you need to know about the procedure. As an added bonus, you’ll awaken to the wonderful smell of cinnamon raisin bread toast! Once you are awake and alert- you are discharged home and back to your normal daily routine the following day.

Other screening methods available which have been approved by the USPSTF and guaranteed covered by insurers are:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Double contrast barium enema
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

Screening methods that have not been approved by the USPSTF so therefore may not be covered by insurance are:

  • Stool DNA, CT
  • Colonography
  • PillCam Colon
  • Cologuard

Remember, it’s important to first have a discussion with your physician about your family history, individual risk factors, and lifestyle in order to come up with the best plan together.

Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective - which is why THERE ARE CURRENTLY MORE THAN ONE MILLION COLON CANCER SURVIVORS ALIVE IN THE US. So, join us in our fight to wipe out colorectal cancer. And next time we’ll talk all about risk factors, so stay tuned!

National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society

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