Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. In 2020, colorectal cancer made up nearly ten percent of all cancer cases globally. In the United States, colorectal cancer is currently the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women. Although these statistics may be alarming, increased awareness and screening efforts have made an impact, and rates have been declining in recent years. Unfortunately, the chances of developing colorectal cancer increase as you age. That is what makes regular preventative screenings so vital in the fight against this disease. The earlier this cancer is caught, the more successful the treatment and survival rates have been.
Who Is Most at Risk to Develop Colorectal Cancer?
Everyone should be vigilant about colon cancer, but there are certain groups of people who may be at a higher risk and need to be especially vigilant about screening and prevention. These groups include:
Individuals over the age of 50
Age is one of the biggest risk factors for colon cancer, and the majority of cases occur in people over the age of 50. For this reason, it is recommended that individuals begin regular screenings at age 45 or 50, depending on the screening method used and their risk factors.
Individuals with a family history of colon cancer
Individuals with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) who have had colon cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease themselves. Depending on the age at which their relative was diagnosed, and other factors, they may need to start screening earlier and/or undergo more frequent screenings.
Individuals with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer
Individuals who have had colon polyps or cancer in the past are at a higher risk of developing the disease again. They may need to undergo more frequent screenings to monitor for any recurrence or new growths.
Individuals with certain medical conditions
Certain medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), can increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer. These individuals may need to start screening at an earlier age or undergo more frequent screenings.
Individuals with poor lifestyle habits
Poor lifestyle habits, such as a diet high in red meat and processed foods, lack of exercise, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption, can increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer. Individuals who engage in these behaviors may need to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk and undergo regular screenings to monitor for any signs of the disease.
What Types of Screenings are Available?
There are several screening options available including stool-based tests and visual exams of the colon and rectum, such as a traditional colonoscopy. Stool-based tests can detect traces of blood or DNA markers in the stool, while visual exams allow doctors to directly view the lining of the colon and rectum to check for polyps or other abnormalities.
Although the idea of undergoing a colorectal cancer screening may be daunting, it is important to remember that the benefits far outweigh any temporary discomfort or inconvenience. Not only can screenings detect cancer early, but they can also help identify other potential health concerns, such as inflammatory bowel disease or hemorrhoids.
Virtual colonoscopies, also known as CT colonography, are a type of screening test for colorectal cancer that uses computed tomography (CT) scans to create detailed images of the colon and rectum. Visionary Wellness & Imaging is happy to provide these non-invasive, first-line scans to our clients. Studies have shown that virtual colonoscopies can detect polyps and other abnormalities in the colon with a high degree of accuracy, particularly those larger than one centimeter. Virtual colonoscopies can be a useful alternative for individuals who are unable or unwilling to undergo traditional colonoscopy. They may be particularly helpful for individuals who are at high risk for complications from sedation or anesthesia, or who have medical conditions that make traditional colonoscopy more challenging.
Being a proactive champion of your own health can help prevent colorectal cancers from forming. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber is essential for colon health. As with your overall well-being, exercise is an important part of your everyday life, as well. Be sure to know your family’s health history and maintain your regular checkups. Schedule a preventative scan with us at Visionary Wellness & Imaging to take your first step towards a healthier life today!