Colorectal cancer – cancer of the large intestine (colon) and rectum (the last several inches of your colon) – is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer will account for more than 50,000 deaths this year. But there is reason for optimism as cancer screenings, lifestyle changes and added awareness can decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer often begins as small non-cancerous polyps that may become malignant over time. Colorectal cancer screenings can detect the polyps early and prevent the disease from developing or spreading.
Health care professionals recommend screenings for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50. If the disease runs in your family, a good rule of thumb is to start screenings ten years prior to your family member’s age of diagnosis. For example, if your sister was diagnosed at 53 years old, begin your screenings at 43.
There are various screenings available, so discussing these options with your doctor is important. Each screening has its own benefits and downfalls. Your doctor may also recommend more frequent or earlier screenings if you pose a greater risk for developing colorectal cancer.