Let's Talk About Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer screening education and discussions needed according to CDC

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) While colorectal cancer is all too common, it’s one of the cancers that can be beaten when caught early. The key to winning is screening. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to pick a screening test and to, essentially, just do it!

Why? Because colorectal cancer screening saves lives, says the CDC.

When colorectal cancer is detected at its earliest stages through screening, about 90 percent of patients are still alive after five years. 

"Learn about colorectal cancer screening tests if you're 50 or older."

For people without a family history of colorectal cancer, screening for the disease happens between 50 and 75 years of age.

The problem is that about a third of the folks in this age group (23 million individuals) aren’t being screened for this cancer — the second leading cancer killer of men and women.

And what many may not know is that there are three different ways to screen for colorectal cancer, including an inexpensive test that can be done at home.

Here are the colorectal cancer screening options:

  • Colonoscopy is an internal exam of the entire colon that is performed every 10 years as long as there’s no sign of disease. This test finds and can remove precancerous polyps.
  • Stool tests are taken at home every year. Stool tests include the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT). These tests look for blood in the stool, which could signal cancer.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy looks at the lower part of the colon and is performed every five years, with FOBT/FIT done every three years.

What's important to realize is that any of these tests can be effective in detecting colorectal cancer early.

Richard Berri, MD, director of Surgical Oncology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center's Van Elslander Cancer Center, told dailyRx News, "I treat many patients with advanced colorectal cancer who unfortunately were never screened. So, it really is true that colorectal cancer screening saves lives."

And here are some interesting statistics:

  • Colonoscopy is the most common colorectal cancer screening method used by 62 percent of individuals who were screened.
  • Massachusetts has the most people who are up-to-date on their colorectal cancer screenings.

The CDC is urging healthcare providers — doctors, nurses and public health professionals — to inform patients of their colorectal cancer screening choices and encourage patients to have the screening.

These recommendations were published in the CDC’s bulletin, Vital Signs.

Review Date: 
November 5, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013