There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t get screened for colon cancer. Fear, time constraints, lack of insurance, and plain-old procrastination were the top reasons given in an email survey conducted by the Colon Cancer Alliance. And that doesn’t even include people who don’t realize they should be screened. Whether you’ve been purposely avoiding your colonoscopy or you’re just not sure when to have one, now is the time to make a change.
March 6 is National Screening Day, a nationwide effort to encourage those who have been avoiding their colonoscopy get past their fears, forego all excuses, and schedule an appointment for this potentially life-saving procedure. Take a few minutes to become familiar with these risk factors that may indicate your need for a colonoscopy:
Men and women of average risk should receive a baseline colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter if their test results are clear.
African Americans have a higher incidence of colon cancer and should begin baseline screening at age 45.
Having a family history of precancerous polyps can raise your risk of colon cancer by 35 to 70 percent (Source: StopColonCancerNow). People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with colon cancer or precancerous polyps should be screened 10 years prior to the youngest family diagnosis. If you’re not familiar with your family’s health history, take this opportunity to ask!
Most cases of colon cancer have no early warning signs, so you can’t solely rely on symptoms to tell you when there’s a problem. However, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
- Changes in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, but with early detection and treatment, it is 90 percent preventable. Let National Screening Day motivate you to schedule your next colonoscopy or encourage a loved one to schedule theirs. It’s a one-day procedure that can add years to your life!