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Detecting colorectal cancer

A doctor speaks with an elderly patient as the two sit on an examination table.

Cancer prevention begins with knowing your risk factors and screening options.

The third most common cancer diagnosed for both men and women in the US is one few people want to discuss, and even fewer want to be tested for. The American Cancer Society estimates there will 101,420 new cases of colon cancer and 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer in 2019.

The good news: Through regular checkups, not only can this cancer be detected in early, treatable stages, but it can actually be prevented. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps, or growths in the lining of your colon and large intestine. Often benign or premalignant, polyps can be removed before they turn into cancer. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises people between ages 50-75 to have regular colon cancer screening.

The risk is real, as the numbers attest, so people who fit the criteria – especially those with a family history of the disease – should not have any apprehension about being examined. There are a few options for colorectal cancer screening, including stool-based tests. This diagnostic tool is a less invasive test that checks for signs of cancer. Stool screening options include getting a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) each year (which is recommended by the USPSTF).

Get screened

Other options include visual exams of the colon and rectum via a scope to look for any abnormalities. These tests include colonoscopies every 10 years, which is the gold standard for screening and the test recommended for those at higher-than-average risk. CT colonography every five years and flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years are other options but not as reliable as the colonoscopy. Because there are multiple options, consult with your doctor to choose what screening method is best for you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people who have a family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis or a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome) be screened sooner than age 45, preferably at age 40.

Glen Cove Hospital offers many of these colorectal screening methods to provide patients with a comprehensive colorectal cancer screening and treatment program.

Get in touch with your doctor and pick a screening plan that works best for you.

Barbara Keber, MD, chair of family medicine at Glen Cove Hospital and assistant professor at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell

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