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With screening, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are also highly treatable if caught early. That’s why on-time screening is essential and lifesaving.

Here to talk about this is Dr. Gopi Vasudevan, Gastroenterologist at Platte Valley Medical Group.

When you should be screened

All men and women without a family history of colorectal cancer should begin colorectal cancer screenings at age 45, according to the American Cancer Society.

If you have certain risk factors, you may need to be screened earlier than 45. Speak with your trusted healthcare professional about developing a screening plan for you. They can recommend how and when you should be screened.

Risk factors, including genetics and family history 

The majority of colorectal cancer patients do not have a family history or genetic connection to the disease. This is when the cancer occurs by chance and is often called “sporadic cancer.”

However, in some families, we see more cancer than we would expect. About one in four patients have a family history of colorectal cancer that could suggest a genetic and/or hereditary factor.

A family history of colorectal cancer, that is, an immediate family member (parent, brother, sister) or multiple family members with colorectal cancer or polyps, puts you at an increased risk for the disease.

Screening methods

The most common method for Colorectal Cancer Screening is an annual colonoscopy: a simple and safe procedure in which your doctor uses a long tube with a light and camera to detect precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Polyps can be removed during the procedure if found before they turn into cancer and when treatment works best.

Common symptoms

Colorectal cancer first develops with few, if any, symptoms. It’s vital to talk to a doctor if symptoms do appear. These may include:

  • A change in bowel habits including diarrhea, constipation, a change in the consistency of your stool or finding your stools are narrower than usual
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas, or pain and/or feeling full, bloated or that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  • Weakness or fatigue, can also accompany losing weight for no known reason, nausea or vomiting

Colorectal cancer symptoms can also be associated with many other health conditions. Only a medical professional can determine the cause of your symptoms. Early signs of cancer often do not include pain. It is important not to wait before seeing a doctor. Early detection can save your life.