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Have You Been Screened for Colon Cancer?

Many people don’t delay scheduling their health checks for breast cancer, cervical cancer or other diseases. But when it comes to screenings for cancer of the colon and rectum, a lot of us procrastinate.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait

The fact is, this screening isn’t as bad as you think. It’s not painful and it’s fast. Even invasive testing like a colonoscopy may take only 30 minutes. And that’s time well spent because screening can detect cancer in its early stages. Tests can also locate abnormal growths—called polyps—years before cancer develops.

How effective is screening? According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), regular testing could save your life. Tests help find growths before they get too large or before the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.

Who Needs Screening

The ACS and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends people with an average risk for colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. 

If you have an increased risk for colorectal cancer, you may need to get tested at an earlier age. This includes people with:

•    A personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer.
•    A strong family history of polyps or colorectal cancer.
•    Inflammatory bowel disease.

Multiple Choice

You have several choices when it comes to screening:

•    A test for hidden blood in the stool, called a guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT), every year.
•    A CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy), a scan that uses X-rays and special computer programs to create a 3-D view of the inside of the colon and rectum, every five years.
•    A colonoscopy, a procedure that checks the entire colon and rectum with a camera, every 10 years.

You may need more frequent testing depending on your health history.

If you’re due for a screening, ask your provider which test—or combination of tests—he or she recommends and why. Ask about the risks and benefits of each method. Your provider can explain what’s involved so that you can choose based on your personal preference and health history. If cancer is detected, Overlake offers direct access to top oncologists and treatment options in partnership with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Talk with your healthcare provider about the screening schedule that works best for you.

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