Health Education

Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?  

Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the lower parts of the bowels – the large intestine and the rectum. It often develops from pre-cancerous growths called polyps that do not initially cause any symptoms, but can grow, change, and start causing more noticeable things like abdominal or rectal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or even blood in the stool later.  

Why is Colorectal Cancer Screening Important? 

According to the American Cancer Society, Colorectal cancers are the second-leading cause of death from cancers in the US. They affect about 150,000 people and cause about 50,000 deaths every year in the United States.  

Who’s at Risk for Colorectal Cancer?

What puts you at higher risk of colorectal cancer and what can you do about it? 

Race & Ethnicity: Some racial and ethnic groups have higher rates of colorectal cancer than others such as African Americans, Native Americans, and Ashkenazi Jews. Everyone’s risk goes up every year after age 45.  

Gender: Men have a slightly higher rate of colorectal cancer than women. 

Past Medical History: Some conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease put you at higher risk, and even having a common condition like diabetes puts you at higher risk. And of course, if you already have a personal history of precancerous polyps or a history of colon cancer, you are at higher risk.  

How to Lower Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

Many things that increase your risk of colorectal cancer can be changed! By following a healthy lifestyle – quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol use, and following a more plant-based diet along with getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, you will reduce your risk.  

At HealthPoint, we can help you make these important changes. You can schedule a visit with a behavioral health consultant, a nutritionist, or your Primary Care Provider for more help with these things. 

Guidelines & Colorectal Cancer Screening

There are several different screening tools we can use, but the two most common are the colonoscopy and the Fecal Immunochemical Test otherwise known as the annual FIT test.   

Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy involves having a gastroenterologist pass a camera up your rectum and throughout your colon to look for any polyps or other growths that may be developing. It’s all done while you are under general anesthesia, so you don’t feel a thing. If they see any small polyps, they will remove them to check for precancerous or cancerous changes. It is an entirely painless process but does involve some considerable preparation with a prescribed laxative to clean out your bowels before the exam. You typically will need a friend or family member to accompany you to the procedure and to drive you home afterward. A colonoscopy is typically required just once every 10 years if everything looks good but will be needed more often if something is found.  

Stool FIT Test: Colonoscopy is better at detecting and preventing colorectal cancer, but some people don't want to or can't have a colonoscopy, and luckily there is another great option. The stool FIT test looks for signs of microscopic blood in the stool. The FIT test needs to be done every single year starting at age 45 to help detect intermittent bleeding.   

Your doctor will give you a test kit in an envelope with everything you need. You simply follow the instructions, collect a small sample at home, and return the kit to our clinic. If the test is positive, that means there is some microscopic blood in the stool, and then you will need to do an actual colonoscopy to find out where that is coming from.  

If you don’t have insurance, then we can help you apply to a great program that covers the cost of the colonoscopy.   

If you or your loved one are over 45 and have not yet started doing colorectal cancer screening, please ask your provider about it and encourage your loved ones to get it done. It could save your life or the lives of your loved ones! Thank you.