According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 135,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017 alone with an estimated 50,000 deaths by year’s end. As the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, this means that one in 22 men or one in 24 women are diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Despite this type of cancer being so common, many people don’t know that much about it.
Here are 7 need-to-know facts about colon cancer
- Routine screening for colon cancer can be effective in early detection and treatment. People with an average risk for colon cancer are usually advised to start screening at age 50. Someone with a family history or who are at higher risk for getting cancer should talk to their doctor about getting screened earlier.
- Though rare, there are genetic mutations that can increase a person’s risk for developing colon cancer. The most common inherited colon cancers are Heriditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) or Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). It is important to realize that carrying the gene that causes these diseases doesn’t meant that you’ll definitely get the disease, just that you’re at an increased risk for it.
- There is an association between colon cancer and diet. Colon cancer is associated with a diet that is high in fat but low in fiber. Physicians aren’t sure why this happens, but there is ongoing research to study it.
- There are other lifestyle habits that are also associated with a higher risk of having colon cancer. Lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol use can all increase a person’s risk.
- Being of older age (above age 50), African-American race, and a family history of colon cancer are factors that can also increase a person’s risk for getting colon cancer.
- According to the organization, Fight Colorectal Cancer, “60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.” Routine screening doesn’t have to mean a colonoscopy. Simple tests, such as ALFA’s immunochemical Fecal Occult Blood (iFOB) test, can be very effective as an initial screening tool. With a 99.5% accuracy rate in detecting human fecal occult blood, results are available within minutes.
- Many people don’t have any symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. As the disease progresses, symptoms include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, stomach discomfort, weakness or unexplained weight loss.
People should be advised to speak with their doctor about their specific risk factors for getting colon cancer, as well as the screening tests, such as ALFA’s iFOB test, that may be appropriate for their situation. Annual iFOB screening tests are covered by insurance at no cost to patients 50 years of age and older.
Please contact us for more information about the iFOB and other cancer marker tests!