It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
About 1 out of 3 people are not up to date with their colorectal cancer screening, which can help identify precancerous polyps so you can get them removed before they turn into cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Colorectal cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms, which is why screenings are key to diagnosing cancer.
Those who do have symptoms experience:
- Blood in stool
- Persistent, ongoing stomach pain and cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
There are a few different screenings for colorectal cancer available to you. The level of preparation needed for them, invasiveness, and frequency you’ll need them all vary.
Fecal Occult Blood Tests and Fecal Immunochemical Tests
A fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) can check for hidden blood in your stool, which can be a sign of cancer.
These tests are noninvasive and don’t require a bowel cleanse before your appointment. They also need to be repeated each year because they don’t give your doctor a firsthand look at your colon’s health.
You simply collect your stool sample at home and mail it or bring it in to a lab for processing, and they’ll let you know your results.
A FIT-DNA test checks for blood in the stool as well, but it also looks for DNA changes that may be a sign of cancer or precancerous polyps.
This test is noninvasive and doesn’t require a bowel cleanse before your appointment. They also need to be repeated every 3 years, because they don’t give your doctor a firsthand look at your colon’s health.
You simply collect your stool sample at home and mail it or bring it to a lab for processing, and they’ll let you know your results.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but it only looks at part of your colon.
This procedure may require a bowel cleansing the night before, but its prep is not as extensive as what’s required for a colonoscopy. It’s usually done in your doctor’s office or a procedure room, and it must be repeated every 5 years.
The procedure involves a thin, flexible scope being inserted into the rectum to view the lower third of the colon so your doctor can look at its condition firsthand. Pieces of tissue can also be removed and evaluated for any abnormal cell changes.
A colonoscopy provides the best view of the entire colon.
Bowel cleansing is required the night before this procedure. It’s usually done in an outpatient surgery center, and it is usually recommended once every 10 years. If your provider is concerned though, they can recommend you have them more frequently.
A thin, flexible scope is inserted into your rectum to view your entire colon. Pieces of tissue or polyps can also be removed and evaluated for any abnormal cell changes.
The Screening That’s Right for You
You should work with your doctor to choose the screening that’s right for you and your situation. No matter which screening you choose, most of our plans will cover 100% of the cost. If more testing or services are needed besides your normal screenings, you may be responsible for paying a copay.
Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. What can you do?
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a diet that’s high in fiber and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Get regular exercise.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit saturated fats and alcohol.
This March, talk to your doctor about scheduling your next screening.