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How to Know It’s Time for a Colon Cancer Screening

Colonoscopy Screening

In 2020, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be almost 105,000 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed. In addition, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States and is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths when men and women are combined.

Thankfully, colorectal cancer is highly preventable through screening. Screening for colorectal cancer is called a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will use a colonoscope to inspect your entire colon and rectum. A colonoscope is a flexible tool with a light and a camera on the end. If polyps are present, they will be painlessly removed during your colonoscopy.

Because screening for colorectal cancer is so helpful in preventing it, staying on top of your screening is important. Read on for three ways to know it’s time for a colon cancer screening.

1. You’re 45 or Older AND You Haven’t Been Screened

Regular colon cancer screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. It’s recommended that people begin colorectal cancer screening when they are 45. Colorectal cancer begins as abnormal cells that grow into polyps on the GI tract. Over time, these polyps can turn into cancer. During screening, polyps are found and removed before they can turn into cancer. Colorectal cancer screening can also lead to early detection of cancer when it’s easier to treat.

2. You’re Under 45 AND You Have Risk Factors AND You Haven’t Been Screened

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease. Different diseases have different risk factors. Some risk factors can be changed. Diet is a risk factor that can be changed. Some risk factors can’t be changed. Your age is a risk factor that can’t be changed.

Having a risk factor or multiple risk factors doesn’t mean that you will get a disease. Some people who get a certain disease don’t have any known risk factors.

You may be more likely to get colorectal cancer if you have one or more of these risk factors:

  • You’re 45 or older. As you age, your risk of colorectal cancer increases. Younger people can get colorectal cancer, but it’s more common after 45.
  • You’re African American. It’s unknown why, but African Americans have the highest rates of colorectal cancer and the highest mortality rates of all racial groups in the US.
  • You have a family history of colorectal cancer. 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have a family history of colorectal cancer. Those who have a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) with colorectal cancer are at increased risk, especially if the relative was diagnosed before 45 or if more than one first-degree relative has been diagnosed. Cancers occurring in families can be due to inherited genes, shared environmental factors, or a combination both.

3. Polyps Were Discovered During Your Last Colonoscopy AND You’re Due for Your Next Colonoscopy

If polyps were discovered during your last colonoscopy, a follow-up exam is essential in preventing the development of cancer. During a follow-up screening, your gastroenterologist will be checking to see if more polyps have developed. Your gastroenterologist will decide how often you need to have a colonoscopy. It’s normally between five and seven years, but maybe more frequent depending on the occurrence of polyps.

If you fall into any of these categories, it’s time for a colonoscopy. Request an appointment today


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