March is colorectal cancer awareness month and there’s no better time to learn about detecting this most preventable form of cancer. By taking action, you can screen for cancer in the comfort of your own home and as early as possible.
Early detection of colorectal cancer has been shown to have a 90 percent survival rate. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States. But when you compare those statistics with that fact that 41 percent of the U.S. population age 50 and older do not keep up their regular screening for colon cancer, raising awareness on ways to detect the disease remains a high priority for Renown Health and the American Cancer Society.
In 2014, the American Cancer Society launched a national challenge: to have 80 percent of the population age 50 and over screen for colorectal cancer by 2018. Interested to know how our state has done so far? Top ranked states such as Massachusetts are already screening more 76 percent of their eligible population, the highest state screening rate in the nation. Nevada ranks 45th, with just over 59 percent up-to-date on colorectal cancer screening.
However, we can increase that number easily because screening can be as easy as taking a test in your own home. Health networks such as Renown offer a once-a-year FIT test, which stands for Fecal Immunochemical Test, is as easy to administer as a swish and flush.
Early Detection of Colon Cancer
It’s pretty remarkable how it works: with a stool sample collected in the comfort and privacy of your bathroom, the sample is mailed to a screening center which can detect hidden traces of blood, often the first sign of cancer.
“When you catch colon cancer in the earliest stages, you can go in and have the pre-cancerous polyp removed, and you’re done,” says Denise Wiley, BSN, RN, OCN, Nurse Navigator at Renown Institute for Cancer. “That’s what could take place instead of having the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, if the cancer is caught earlier through screening.”
An important message to remember: A colonoscopy is still the best at finding and removing cancerous polyps in the colon. The CDC recommends a colonoscopy for persons age 50 and over, and then every 10 years afterward. In those in-between times, though, the FIT test is a convenient screening that can be completed at home instead of going to the doctor’s office or a hospital.
It’s important to note that African Americans should begin colon cancer screenings at age 45, while people with a family history of colon cancer should speak with their doctor about when to start their screening schedule.
Either way, having a regular screening is Prevention 101 — and the FIT Test makes it that much easier to complete every year.
“Whether you’ve been meaning to schedule a colonoscopy, or you’d just like some extra peace of mind, talking with your primary care provider about screening is an important part of taking care of your health – especially if you have ANY family history of cancer.” Wiley says.
Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Talk with a health care provider about when you should begin screening for colorectal cancer and, if so, which test(s) to get. Lastly, check with your health insurance provider to see if screening costs are covered.