Written By: Care New England on September 09, 2021
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, people put off routine health screenings. However, with much of the country fully vaccinated against COVID-19, it is now much safer to come in for routine screenings.
Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer, so it is incredibly important to be regularly screened for this cancer. Keep reading to find out when you should start scheduling colorectal screenings and how often you should come in for exams.
When should I start scheduling a colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society’s colonoscopy screening guidelines say you should get your first colorectal screening at the age of 45 - if you are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Typically, people at high risk should also start scheduling colorectal screenings at the age of 45. That said, in some cases, a colonoscopy may be required before the age of 45.
Who is at average risk of colorectal cancer?
The American Cancer Society defines individuals at average risk of developing colorectal cancer as individuals who do not have:
At least one family member with a history of colorectal cancer
A personal history of radiation therapy for cancer treatment in the pelvic or abdominal region
FAP, HNPCC, or another genetic colorectal cancer syndrome
A personal history of IBD
A personal history of adenomas or colorectal cancer
How often should you get a colonoscopy?
How often you should schedule follow-up screenings depends on your risk level. If you are at average risk, you should schedule a colonoscopy once every 10 years until the age of 75.
If you are at high risk of developing colorectal cancer, you should schedule a colonoscopy every five (5) years. Past the age of 75, whether you need further screenings will depend on your health history.
Why are colorectal screenings important?
Regular colorectal screenings are important because they detect early-stage colon or rectal cancer. In some cases, precancerous polyps are discovered and removed before they develop into cancer. Regardless, the earlier cancer is detected, the better the prognosis is.
Can colorectal cancer be prevented?
While it is possible to detect and remove precancerous polyps, there is no way to prevent the formation of precancerous polyps. With that being said, it is possible to mitigate the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Here are some actionable steps you can take:
Stop smoking: People often associate tobacco consumption with an increased risk of mouth, throat, and lung cancer. However, smoking has also been shown to increase the risk of other cancers, including colorectal cancer. If you're a smoker who is already at high risk of developing colorectal cancer based on your personal or family medical history, it is highly advisable to stop smoking.
Exercise regularly: A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing polyps and colorectal cancer. Therefore, it is advisable to be sedentary as little as possible. If you have a sedentary job, try to get up and move a little every hour. When you get home, try to lie down only when you are ready for bed.
Be conscious of your weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing polyps and colorectal cancer. If you're struggling with your weight, it is highly advisable to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity or 1.25 hours of vigorous activity weekly.
How can I schedule a colonoscopy?
Don't put off routine health screenings. A colorectal screening can detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages, meaning it probably has not metastasized and will be easier to treat. If you are at least 45 years of age and have not yet received a colorectal screening, schedule an appointment today.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis. If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.