Colon cancer screening tests can help prevent disease and save lives.
The Facts about Colon Cancer
Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older. In the United States, it is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer—but it doesn't have to be.
Regular colon cancer screening tests can help prevent disease and save lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colon cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most successful.
Preventing Colon Cancer
The exact cause of colon cancer is not known. That is why it is important to get regular screenings.
A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn't have symptoms. Colon cancer screening can find polyps, or abnormal growths, before they turn into cancer so they can be removed. Screening can also find colon cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective.
If you are age 50 or older, talk with your doctor about colon cancer screenings. If you have one or more risk factors for colon cancer, your doctor may want you to have screening exams earlier and more often.
In addition, many healthcare professionals believe that eating a healthy diet with plenty of fiber, not smoking, and regular physical activity may help prevent colon cancer.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the following screenings for colon cancer beginning at age 50 through age 75:
- A colonoscopy, which uses a flexible, lighted tube to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon, every 10 years.
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy, which uses a flexible, lighted tube to look at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon, every five years.
- A high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which checks for hidden blood in the stool, every year.
Many doctors today prefer a colonoscopy for detecting colorectal cancer because it lets them see the entire colon. Plus, if your doctor sees something unusual, polyps or tissue samples can be taken out right away.
If you or someone you know has a colon problem or if you need a screening test, call the MedStar Health Cancer Network for an appointment at 877-715-HOPE. Our expertise can make a big difference in getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment, right away.
If you are 50 or older, live in Baltimore City or Anne Arundel County and have a low income you may be eligible for a free colonoscopy at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, MedStar Harbor Hospital and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. Call 410-350-8216 to see if you qualify.