Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: Colon and Rectal Cancer

    March 30, 2016

    Take Charge of Your Health!

    What is Colon and Rectal Cancer?

    Cancer of the colon (the large intestine) and rectum (the end of the large intestine) is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer.

    Who gets Colon and Rectal Cancer?

    Colon and rectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups.

    People over age 50 have the highest risk of colon and rectal cancer. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke, or have a family history of colon and rectal cancer.

    How do I know if I have Colon and Rectal Cancer?

    Most people who have colon and rectal cancer have no signs or symptoms at all, which is why screening is so important.

    However, be sure to see your doctor if you DO have:

    • Bleeding from the rectum
    • A change in your bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
    • Pain in the abdomen or in the rectum
    What does screening do?

    Most colon and rectal cancers start as polyps (small growths) in the wall of the intestine. Screening looks for these growths and removes them before they have a chance to become cancer. If you have these polyps, the specialist will recommend repeating the screening test more often to find if you are forming new ones and to remove them.

    Who should be screened for Colon and Rectal Cancer?
    • Persons aged 50 and over should routinely be screened. People with high risk conditions such as family history of cancer, history of polyps (growths in the colon) , and inflammation of the intestine (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
    • African Americans starting at age 45
    • If you have bleeding from the rectum
    What can you do to protect yourself from getting Colon and Rectal Cancer?
    • Get screened starting at age 50 – remember, most of the time people have no symptoms
    • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
    • Get plenty of physical activity
    • Eat raw vegetables, especially green vegetables
    • Avoid excessive processed meats
    • Avoid excessive alcohol
    • Ask your doctor if taking an aspirin a day is right for you
    How often should I be screened?

    That depends on your risk of colon and rectal cancer and which test you have.

    Most people can choose one of these schedules:

    • Colonoscopy every 10 years
    • Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years (the sigmoid is an area of the colon)
    • Stool testing for blood once a year
    • Stool DNA testing every 3 years (but doctors are not yet sure of the time frame)

    People who have a high risk of colon and rectal cancer often need to be tested more often.

    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:

    Screening for colon and rectal cancer can save your life. For your sake and for the sake of those who love and depend on you, do not wait to get this important screening test.

    To learn more:

    American Cancer Society

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA)

    National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus

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