March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. As an 11-year survivor of colorectal cancer myself, I try to let people know how important it is to have a checkup by their doctor.
I cannot emphasize enough the need for regular screenings. In my case, I had Crohn’s disease, and during a routine colonoscopy a tumor was detected.
I was 41 at the time. If it was not for the test done for Crohn’s, I may not have had a checkup for cancer until it was too late. I did not know at the time that I was at high risk for colorectal cancer.
The five-year survival rate for local or early stage detection of colorectal cancer is 90 percent.
On the other hand, the five-year survival rate for distant or late stage detection is only 8 percent.
Beginning at the age 50, the American Cancer Society recommends one of the following tests:
* fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year.
* flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
* yearly FOBT plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
* colonoscopy every 10 years.
* double-contrast barium enema every five years.
People at increased or high risk for colon cancer should talk to their doctor about a different screening schedule.
If you have symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or stomach cramps that don’t go away, see your doctor right away.
People who have had colorectal cancer polyps, or who have inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis, or have blood relatives who have had colorectal cancer or polyps, may need to have these tests done earlier and more often.
Cancer, and especially colorectal cancer, is not something we like to talk about but it is a fact of life.
Having a screening is your best insurance in preventing or detecting colorectal cancer early, when it can be successfully treated.