The Importance of Colorectal Screenings

If you are turning the big 5-0 this year, your health should be your priority. Even if you aren’t ready to sign up for an AARP membership card, you should undergo a colorectal cancer screening because your chances of developing the disease increase considerably after reaching the half century mark. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 90 percent of those cases involve people ages 50 and up.

Be Aware of Your Risk Factors

“Anyone 50 years of age or older should be screened with colonoscopy on a regular basis, usually every 5-10 years. Also, for those people who have a family history of colon cancer, screening with colonoscopy may be necessary at an earlier age,” says Weiss Memorial Hospital internist, Paul Abbo, M.D.

Other risk factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal cancer include:

  • Personal or family history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Being African-American
  • Eating a diet high in fat
  • Being physically inactive
  • Obesity
  • Smoking and heavy alcohol use

Colorectal cancer screening is valuable because individuals may not show any symptoms until it is already advanced.

Nothing to Fear—Just Make Your Appointment

Walter Meek, long-time patient of Dr. Abbo, takes regular colon cancer screenings in stride. “I’ve always gone to Weiss for my health screenings,” says Walter. In fact, as a senior citizen, Walter goes every five years for a colonoscopy and has always had a positive experience. “Everyone is so nice and always very helpful. I recommend Weiss to all of my family and friends,” Walter affirms. Walter’s words provide even the most fearful patient a little reassurance that getting a colonoscopy does not have to be a scary proposition. It’s far better to catch potential health issues at an early stage than to wait until problems advance.

According to Dr. Abbo, there are several ways of screening for colon cancer, but the most recommended remains the colonoscopy. This allows a specialist to both diagnose and treat or remove any polyps that may be found. It is these polyps that can grow into cancers as time passes. Other ways to diagnose polyps include barium enemas and stool analysis for blood or advanced testing for polyp DNA, but these methods still remain a secondary option to the best test which is the colonoscopy. Don’t let fear or excuses prevent you from getting such a valuable screening done this year.

Know Your Options: The Types of Colorectal Screenings

Following are screening tests available to help detect polyps and cancer. Learn more about available tests and screenings at Weiss.

Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
This test may be performed every year to check for tiny amounts of blood in the stool. The FOBT involves placing a small amount of stool from three consecutive bowel movements on a test card that is then taken to a doctor’s office or laboratory for testing.

Double Contrast Barium Enema 
This test, which is also called a lower gastrointestinal (GI) series, involves giving the patient an enema with a barium solution followed by an injection of air into the rectum. A series of X-rays are then taken to show any existing polyps or abnormalities. This test may be necessary every five years.

Colonoscopy
During this procedure, a long, lighted tube, called a colonoscope, is used to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, suspicious areas, or cancer. Polyps or tissue samples may be removed during a colonoscopy, which is recommended every 10 years.

To set up an appointment for a colorectal cancer screening, call (844) 780-3078.