Should You Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women. In 2023, it is estimated that 153,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and 53,000 people will die from this disease.

Colorectal cancer can be prevented through screenings. Screenings allow providers to catch and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Should you get screened for colorectal cancer? You may want to have a screening sooner than you expect.

You may be at higher risk for colorectal cancer if you:

  • Are 45 or older
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer
  • Are African American
  • Live in eastern Kentucky

For Those Age 45 or Older

Across the country, people are diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer at a younger age. In fact, by 2030, colorectal cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer-related death for those between 29-40. You can read more about this statistic here. To fight this increasing rate in younger people, the American Cancer Society lowered the screening age from 50 to 45 in 2018 to encourage screening at an earlier age.

The United States Preventive Services Taskforce recommends screening for colorectal cancer in all adults ages 45-75. For patients 76 and older, talk to your provider about whether or not screening is recommended. Your provider will consider your overall health, prior screening history and preferences.

Risks Related to Family History of Colorectal Cancer

If you have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer, mention this to your primary care physician, as they may suggest you start regular screening before age 45.

Risks for People of Color

According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are about 20% more likely to have colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die than other ethnic groups. Many factors play a role in this statistic, but it is important to schedule screening tests to find it early on or, hopefully, prevent colorectal cancer.

For Those who Live in Eastern Kentucky

A study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention notes eastern Kentucky as a colorectal cancer hot spot. This means the death rates from colorectal cancer have been higher than the national average since the 1970s. This is due to various factors, but one of them is the low rate of screenings.

Types of Screening Tests

  1. Colonoscopy: This is the best way to detect pre-cancerous polyps and colorectal cancer, and this is the only diagnostic and therapeutic procedure currently available. Colonoscopies are pain-free; patients can typically leave under an hour after the procedure.
  2. Stool test: An at-home test, such as FIT or Stool DNA like Cologuard ®, looks for blood in the stool and DNA changes that may be a sign of colorectal cancer. This type of test is more convenient than a complete colonoscopy and would help detect signs of colorectal cancer. If this test returns positive, your primary care provider may recommend a colonoscopy.

Next Steps

To find a location to be screened for colon and rectal cancer, visit UofL Health – Mary & Elizabeth Hospital offers Saturday screenings as a convenient option for patients on the weekend.

You can also call the UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center – Cancer Screening Program at 502-210-4497 with questions. If you have symptoms, talk with your primary care provider as soon as possible.

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Article by: Nanlong "Nathan" Liu, M.D.

UofL Physicians gastroenterologist Nanlong “Nathan” Liu, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Dr. Liu received undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry from Emory University. His medical training was received at the Medical College of Georgia. This was followed by residency training in internal medicine at the University of Louisville. Dr. Liu then earned fellowships in gastroenterology from the University of Louisville and advanced endoscopy and third space endoscopy from the University of Florida.

All posts by Nanlong "Nathan" Liu, M.D.
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