One of the most important things you can do for your health is to make time for preventive health measures like a colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in both men and women, and most people who are diagnosed haven’t experienced any symptoms. But colorectal cancer is also preventable and highly treatable when detected early. That’s why screenings are essential.
If you haven’t had a colorectal cancer screening yet, your care team is there to provide guidance and support every step of the way. We want to make sure you understand the importance of this screening, the different types of screenings available, and how to take the first step.
Why are colorectal cancer screenings important?
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States (excluding skin cancers). Colorectal cancer doesn’t cause symptoms at early stages, which is one reason that screenings are so important — they’re the most effective way to catch colorectal cancer early when it’s highly treatable. The five-year relative survival rate for people with stage I colon cancer is about 92%.
Who should get a screening?
Everyone should have a colorectal cancer screening starting no later than at age 50. In some cases, your provider may recommend one even earlier, if you have certain additional risk factors like a family history of cancer or bowel disease.
If you don’t have additional risk factors, is a screening still a priority? Definitely. Talk with your health provider about which kind of screening is the best option for you, especially if you’re 50 years old or older.
Your care team is here to guide you towards the right screening option
There are multiple types of colorectal cancer screenings available, many of which are highly effective at identifying cancer and its warning signs. Your care team will be able to guide you towards the option that’s most appropriate for you, as well as answer whatever questions you have about the types of screening options.
Here’s what to expect from two of the most common types of colorectal cancer screenings:
Often, an early sign of colon cancer is microscopic blood in the stool. A FIT (fecal immunochemical test) is a highly accurate, once-a-year test that checks for this sign. The FIT does not involve an exam; instead, it’s a simple test that is sent home with you, so that you can collect a sample in the privacy of your home.
It’s easy to start a conversation with your provider about which test is right for you. You can even schedule a virtual appointment to connect with them from home. If a FIT is the best option for your needs, the care center staff can send the FIT directly to you so no office visit is needed.
It’s important to remember that a positive FIT result doesn’t mean that cancer is present. It just means that your provider will recommend further tests, likely a colonoscopy.
During a colonoscopy, a specialist (usually a gastroenterologist) examines the entire length of the colon with a thin, flexible scope. During this screening, the specialist can not only identify if cancer is present but also identify and collect samples of any polyps that could potentially become cancerous in the future. In fact, these polyps can even be removed during the colonoscopy to reduce risk of cancer in the future. The best way to find out if this option is right for you is to make an appointment to talk with your Vera provider.
Next steps after a screening
If a polyp is identified, it doesn’t necessarily point to cancer. There are a variety of different types of polyps that commonly show up in the colon and in the gut, and they are often benign. After a colonoscopy, any samples taken by the specialist will be sent to be tested by a pathologist and getting the results of this test usually takes a few weeks. If the result is negative, you may not need to repeat the colonoscopy for another 10 years, depending on what your primary care provider recommends.
Throughout this process, your care team will be there to support you. They will connect you with a trusted specialist to perform the colonoscopy. They’ll be available to answer whatever questions you may have. And they’ll be there to take care of the next steps to safeguard your health, no matter what the findings of the test show. Remember, colon cancer is highly treatable, especially when it’s caught early with screenings.
Ready to take this important step to protect your health?
Make an appointment to see your Vera provider and assess whether a FIT test or colonoscopy is right for you