The month of March is always a fickle friend – one minute giving the impression Spring has arrived and the next, throwing a curve-ball snowstorm. As we ride out the ever-changing weather and prepare for warmer days, don’t forget to schedule any lapsed health screening appointments. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and in the past year, bookings for colorectal screening have plummeted as a result of COVID-19.
According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colorectal cancer is the second-deadliest cancer in America for both men and women. It is also highly preventable with screenings and yet in the past year, screenings dropped by about 90 percent and diagnoses fell by 32 percent. The sharp decline in screenings puts people at risk for delayed or missed diagnoses and threatens to add to the number of deaths from this disease.
Beginning at age 50, it is important to start regular screening for colorectal cancer. In its early stages, this cancer is very treatable with a five-year survival rate of nearly 90 percent. Early detection is vital to stopping the progression of colorectal cancer and yet only 1 in 3 Americans who are eligible to receive screenings have been tested.
There are a number of options to screen for colorectal cancer based on your family history with the disease or colorectal polyps and other factors such as having an inflammatory bowel disease that may increase the risk for developing colorectal cancer. It is recommended that adults between the ages of 50 and 75 be screened and adults over the age of 75 talk with their doctor for advice on screening.
There are several tests that can screen for colorectal cancer and detect polyps. Your doctor can recommend which test is appropriate for you based on your medical history, risks and preferences – an at-home stool test, sigmoidoscopy test, a colonoscopy or a CT colonography test. For an ‘as it happens’ video of a colonoscopy follow this link to Dr. Mel Ona‘s Youtube video as he received his own colonoscopy.
For more information about the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations on screening for colorectal cancer follow this link. Updated Canadian colorectal cancer screenings guidelines recommend that that low-risk adults aged 50 to 74 years should be screened for colorectal cancer with fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) every 2 years, or flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years, rather than colonoscopy.