Men's Health: Getting the Facts on Colorectal Cancer
New research shows that men may need to begin colon cancer screening earlier than women. The study found that men were far more likely to have potentially precancerous lesions (also called polyps or adenomas) in their colon -- 24.9 percent of men compared to 14.8 percent of women -- and to have them at an earlier age.
Why is colorectal cancer screening so important?
Preventing colorectal cancer from ever starting is the main goal of colorectal cancer screening for those 50-75 years of age. If more Americans were properly screened for colorectal cancer, it would significantly reduce the proportion of people who get the disease as well as the rate of deaths. Both men and women should undergo testing for the disease beginning at age 50. People with a high risk for colorectal cancer and those with a family history should talk with their doctor about being screened at an earlier age.
Studies show that colorectal cancer deaths have declined nearly five percent in the past decade mostly due to prevention through screening and the removal of precancerous polyps. While most colon polyps are benign, some do become cancerous.
Screening is done on individuals who do not necessarily have any signs or symptoms that may indicate cancer. However if symptoms are present they may include a change in bowel habits or bleeding, but usually this disease strikes without symptoms. That's why if you are between the ages of 50-75 it's important to get screened in one of the following ways:
- High-Sensitivity FOBT (Stool Test)
You receive a test kit from your doctor. At home, you use a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool. You return the test kit to the doctor or a lab, where the stool samples are checked for the presence of blood.
How often: Once a year.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
For this test, the doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into the rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon.
How often: Every 5 years.
This is similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.
How often: Every 10 years
HAP will be offering several drawings in the upcoming year to members who receive a colorectal cancer screening test in 2012. Look for information in the mail by April 30, 2012.
Remember: Prevention, early detection and treatment is your best protection against colorectal cancer. So if you have not had a screening this year, please contact your health care provider and schedule one today!