Getting screened for colorectal cancer is something Idahoans aged 45 and older should consider because it is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among adults in Idaho. In fact, 3,194 cases of malignant colorectal cancer were diagnosed among Idahoans from 2015-2019, and sadly, a little more than 3 in 10 Idahoans diagnosed with colorectal cancer died from their cancer within 5 years. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to talk to your doctor about your screening options. Screening and early detection save lives!
Who should be screened?
It is recommended that everyone should get screened starting at age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should talk to your medical provider about getting screened earlier. All Idaho adults should get into the habit of regular screenings.
Why is screening so important?
As with all cancers, the key is to find it early. Your chances of beating the disease and surviving are better. You don’t have to have a family history of colon cancer to be at risk. Colorectal cancer can begin anywhere in the large intestine as pre-cancerous polyps, with no symptoms.
Is a colonoscopy the only reliable test you can do?
No, there are several different kinds of tests are available and the best test is the one that gets done! You can choose from a variety of screening methods, including those that can be done each year from the comfort of your home. There are advantages and disadvantages for each one, so you should talk to your doctor about which is right for you. It’s also important to know that preventing colon cancer or finding it early doesn’t have to be expensive. Simple, affordable tests are available, and most health insurance plans cover the life-saving, preventative tests.
Who is at risk for colon cancer?
The risk increases for everyone as we get older, and we know there’s an increased risk for people who are 45 or older, who smoke, who don’t get enough physical activity, or who are obese. Alcohol and tobacco use also increase risk. Inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease) also increases a person’s risk for colon cancer.
What can we do to reduce the risk?
Besides getting screened regularly if you are 45 or older, you can keep your colon healthy by eating foods that are high in fiber, drinking lots of water, and exercising daily.
- Idaho’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program: https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/health-wellness/diseases-conditions/about-comprehensive-cancer-control-program
- CDC’s colorectal (colon) cancer site: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/index.htm
- For cancer survivors: Staying well during COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivors/staying-well-during-covid-19.htm
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.