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A Guide to Colorectal Cancer Screening

What’s the best way to defend yourself against colorectal cancer, one of the world’s deadliest forms of cancer for both men and women?

Screening, screening, screening!

Colorectal cancer almost always develops in the rectum or colon from precancerous growths called polyps. Regular screening can help prevent colorectal cancer by enabling doctors to identify and remove these abnormal growths even before they develop into cancer. If cancer is detected, treatment can be started earlier, significantly increasing the likelihood of surviving colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society dictate that, beginning at age 45, all adults should undergo colorectal cancer screening and then continue getting screened at regular intervals.

However, individuals younger than 45 are also susceptible to developing colorectal cancer and should speak to their primary care physician about their risk factors and how early screening options, such as a colonoscopy, can help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Tanner’s free, online colorectal cancer health risk assessment will provide you with a summary of your personal risk factors that you can share with your medical provider.

Certain risk factors may place some individuals at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer than others, including:

  • Age – Although colorectal cancers can occur in younger age groups, a majority of the cases occur in adults older than 45.
  • Ethnicity – Certain ethnicities have a greater risk for developing colorectal cancer more than others. Colorectal cancer is a very common cancer among African-Americans.
  • Diet – Diets that are high in red or processed meats (e.g., beef, hotdogs and sliced deli meats) may also contribute to your risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Personal and family history – If you or someone in your family has had colorectal cancer — or has had precancerous polyps removed — the risk of colorectal cancer is increased.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions – Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
  • Smoking and tobacco use – Tobacco products, such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco, contain chemicals that are associated with many cancers, including colorectal cancers.
  • Alcohol consumption – Excessive alcohol consumption may place some at greater risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Individuals who do not get an adequate amount of physical activity have been shown to have higher rates of colorectal cancer than more active adults.
  • Weight – Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk for colorectal cancer.

While watching the above risk factors is important, regular screening remains the best way to fight colorectal cancer by detecting it early and preventing cancer by allowing the removal of precancerous polyps. 

If you are older than 45 or are concerned that you are at risk for colorectal cancer, it’s vital you speak with your primary care physician. Depending on your risk and predisposition, your doctor may recommend earlier screening, such as a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopies — Made Easier
With our direct-access colonoscopy helpline, planning your screening is now more convenient than ever. Simply call the helpline and answer a series of confidential, health-related questions. Individuals who meet the screening criteria can skip the pre-exam office visit and directly schedule their colonoscopy.

To find out if you qualify for a direct-access colonoscopy at Tanner, call 770-812-9097.

Learn more at tanner.org/direct-access.

Gastroenterology Care

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