People who are 50 years of age or older are at risk of developing colon cancer. Have your aging parents been screened yet?
What is colon cancer?
As the name implies, colon cancer occurs in the colon (the large intestine) or in the rectum (the passage leading from the colon to the anus). It’s the third most common cancer in the U.S. for both men and women, and can be fatal, but doesn’t have to be.
Screening can save lives
If danger signs are detected early, colon cancer can frequently prevented or cured. If your aging parents are screened appropriately, doctors may be able to find growths that could potentially turn cancerous and remove them while they are still harmless. Even if cancer has already started developing, early identification and treatment can be very effective: 90% of people whose colon cancer is detected at an early stage and who receive timely treatment are still alive five years later.
Who is most at risk?
There are several factors other than age which can make a person more likely to develop colon cancer, including:
- a family history of the disease
- inflammatory bowel disease
- not eating enough fruits and vegetables and eating too many fatty foods
- drinking alcohol
- a lack of exercise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals between 50 and 75 be screened for colon cancer. After age 75, the CDC recommends that the decision to screen be made on an individual basis.
There are three types of screenings for colon cancer:
This is not as exotic as it sounds. You provide a sample of your stool, which is examined for possible signs of colon cancer. This is recommended as an annual test.
A more invasive type of screening, this involves having a doctor insert a short, thin tube inside your rectum to check for growths. This is recommended every five years.
This is similar to the sigmoidoscopy, but it investigates further into the colon. This is recommended every ten years.
What if you have insurance issues?
The CDC has a Colorectal Cancer Control Program that operates in 25 states and 5 tribal areas in the U.S. This program provides colon cancer screening services to “low-income men and women aged 50–64 years who are underinsured or uninsured…when no other insurance is available.”
Cancer is scary, we all know that. That’s why preventive screenings and early treatments are so important. Check with your aging parents’ doctors to make sure that your loved ones are getting appropriate screening for colon cancer.