Screening and early detection saves lives. When colorectal cancer is diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5 year survival rate is 90% and of course, many people live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured). Unfortunately, only 39% of cases are diagnosed at this localized stage. If the cancer is not detected until late stage, the 5 year survival rates drops to less than 12%.
Furthermore, the disease can be transmitted through the early identification and removal of pre-cancerous polyps, detectable only through colorectal cancer screenings.
All adults and, very rarely, some children and teens, are at risk for colon and rectal cancer.How serious that risk is depends on several factors including your age, family history, personal medical history, life style choices etc.
Ask yourself some important questions to find out your risk
- Am I 50 years old with no other family or personal history that would increase my risk?
- Was my mother or father, sister or brother, or one of my children diagnosed with colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps? How many family members? At what age were they diagnosed?
- Do I have inflammatory bowel disease? ulcerative colitis? Crohn's disease?
- Have I had adenomas (polyps) removed?
- Have I had colon or rectal cancer?
- Have I had endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining)?
- Do I have diabetes?
- Am I overweight or a smoker?
- Do I drink heavily?
- Do I get regular exercise?
- What's my diet like?
- Do I eat large amounts of red or processed meats?
- Do I get several servings of fruit and vegetables every day?
- Do I get adequate calcium and vitamin D?
- Do I belong to a high-risk ethnic group? (African-American, Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe?
- Levels of risk
- Age 50 or over with no other personal or family risk factors
- Previous colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Personal history of Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
- Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP)
- Heavy alcohol use
- Lack of exercise
- Diets high in fat and red or processed meat
- Few fruits and vegetables
Patients at increased risk (a first-degree relative with colon cancer or advanced adenoma diagnosed at age <60 years, or two first-degree relatives diagnosed at any age) should be advised to have screening colonoscopy starting at age 40 years, or 10 years younger than the earliest diagnosis in their family, which comes first, and repeated every five years.
Individuals with some increased risk (first-degree relative with colorectal cancer or advanced adenoma diagnosed at age? 60 years) should be advised to be screened as average-risk persons beginning at age 50 years, using colonoscopy for screening.