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What You Should Know About Colorectal Cancer Screenings

Benefits of Screening, Your Options, and More

 |  For Patients

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. When colon cancer is localized (only found in the part of the body where it began; sometimes referred to as stage 1), the five-year survival rate is 90.6 percent. Once the cancer becomes regional (spreads to regional lymph nodes), the five-year survival rate goes down to 72.2 percent.

The earlier colorectal cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. This is why it is so important to play an active role in protecting your health by getting screened according to your doctor’s recommendation.

Official Screening Recommendations

Nearly 93 percent of new cases of colorectal cancer occur in adults 45 years or older. Incidence rates increase as age increases. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends all adults ages 45 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer and adults ages 76 to 85 should ask their doctor what is right for them.

Depending on your family history, your doctor may recommend you get screened even sooner than age 45. Be sure to talk to your doctor before scheduling your screening. Your risk factors will continue to rise as you get older, so the best way to maintain your overall health is by getting the screenings your doctor recommends for your age.

If you are over the age of 45 and have not been screened for colorectal cancer at all, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider today. If you do not have a primary care provider, you can use the find a provider search tool on our website to locate one near you.

Top 3 Benefits of Colorectal Cancer Screening

  • Detect precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer
  • Find cancer early when treatment works best
  • Identify signs of cancer when you do not have symptoms

Screening Options

  • Colonoscopy: Doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon.
    • How often: Every 10 years (for people who do not have and increased risk of colorectal cancer)
  • CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): Computed tomography (CT) colonography, also called a virtual colonoscopy, uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon
    • How often: Every five years
  • Fecal occult blood test (gFOBT): Detects blood in a stool sample (some doctors may allow this to be completed at home)
    • How often: Every year
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): Uses antibodies to detect blood in a stool sample
    • How often: Every year
  • FIT-DNA test: Combines the FIT with a test that detects altered DNA using a stool sample which is sent to a lab (some doctors may allow this to be completed at home)
    • How often: Every three years
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon.
    • How often: Every five years, or every 10 years with a FIT every year.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What screening test(s) do you recommend for me? Why?
  • How do I prepare? Do I need to change my diet or my usual medication before taking the test?
  • What’s involved in the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful?
  • Is there any risk involved?

Need Help Scheduling an Appointment?

If you are a member of Arizona Care Network, our concierge is part of your healthcare team. Contact our team of dedicated healthcare professionals for assistance scheduling an appointment by calling 602.406.7226 or emailing members@azcarenetwork.org. Available 24/7 to assist with your healthcare needs.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control, 2021

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2021

National Cancer Institute, 2021

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