Colorectal health

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men and 1 in 24 (4.15%) for women. These numbers highlight just how critical it is to be proactive with preventive measures to reduce your risk.

Colorectal cancer screening and prevention

One of the most effective ways to prevent colon cancer is through early detection, and that means regularly scheduled screenings. Among the most common screening for colorectal cancer is the colonoscopy. During this exam, your doctor uses a colonoscope, a flexible, narrow tube with a light and small video camera on the end, to examine the entire length of the colon and rectum.

If during the exam your doctor finds possible precancerous clusters of cells, called polyps, special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to either biopsy or remove any suspicious-looking areas. In most cases, polyps can be removed before turning in to cancer, thus preventing colorectal cancer.

Curious to see just how the exam works? Watch the video below.

When should I get my first colonoscopy?

Regularly scheduled colonoscopies are recommended for those aged 50, or earlier if there is a strong family history or have other risk factors determined by your provider.

What are the risk factors for colon cancer?

A risk factors can be anything that can affect your chance of getting a disorder or disease. Different risk factors can impact different cancers. Common risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • Racial and ethnic background
  • Type 2 diabetes

See the American Cancer Society for more on risk factors.

The National Institute of Cancer has developed a risk colorectal cancer risk assessment. Click here to check your risk.

Other colorectal screenings

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
    A lab test performed at Welia Health that looks for hidden or invisible blood in your bowel movements. This test finds tiny amounts of blood that can’t been seen by just looking at your bowel movements.
  • Cologuard
    Your provider may prescribe Cologuard, an at-home test where a kit is shipped directly to your home. There may be additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred with Cologuard. Please call your insurance company to learn if it is covered by your insurance policy.

Although there have been many advancements with at-home tests, I advise patients to schedule a colonoscopy starting at age 50. This is the best way to determine early changes in your colon and catch polyps before they turn into cancer.

Albert Youn, MD
Welia Health general surgeon

Please note: a referral from your primary provider is needed to schedule a colonoscopy. To make an appointment with one of our Family Medicine providers, call Welia Health at 800.245.5671 or schedule using MyChart.