What can you do to stop the number of deaths from this cancer?

What can you do to stop the number of deaths from this cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, excluding skin cancers. And, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women.

But colorectal cancer doesn’t have to be deadly, says Dr. Peter Oshin, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.

In many cases, colorectal cancer can be prevented with timely colonoscopy screenings and detected early with a simple at-home test.

“A growing number of men and women are getting the message that colorectal cancer screenings and early detection can make the difference between life and death,” Dr. Oshin says. “However, understanding the importance of colorectal screening is as important as taking steps to get tested, and we still have a way to go with the latter.”

Anyone 45 years and older should get screened for colorectal cancer – either by colonoscopy in your doctor’s office or with an at-home test. If you have gastrointestinal issues or a strong family history of colorectal polyps, Dr. Oshin recommends starting colorectal cancer screenings at age 40 or earlier.

Dr. Oshin says because it is less invasive than colonoscopy, some patients gravitate to at-home testing – which detects the presence of cancer. On the other hand, some patients feel more comfortable leaving things to their doctor and choose colonoscopy – which identifies and removes pre-cancerous polyps under light sedation. A follow-up colonoscopy will be necessary for anyone who receives a positive result from at-home testing.

“The bottom line is get tested. Once you consider the benefits and risks associated with each type of screening, take action,” Dr. Oshin stresses. “In addition to extending your potential longevity, early detection can factor into the aggressiveness of needed treatment options in the event you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer.”

Dr. Oshin recommends discussing screening options with your internal medicine doctor for help determining which method is best for you. After your first colonoscopy, Dr. Oshin says a repeat screening may be needed in 10 years, or sooner depending on the results. At-home testing is recommended every three years.

Take our Colorectal Health Assessment to determine your estimated lifetime risk and whether an evaluation is recommended for you. 

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About the Author

Cassie Richardson
Cassie Richardson

Cassie Richardson, health enews contributor, is regional coordinator on Advocate Aurora Health's Public Affairs team. She has more than 10 years of experience in health care communications, marketing, media and public relations. Cassie is a fan of musical theater and movies. When she’s not spreading the word about health and wellness advancements, she enjoys writing fiction.