According to the Centers for Disease Control, colon cancer “is the second leading cancer cause of death in the United States.” It is estimated that over 135,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017 alone. People over the age of 50 are by far the most common age group affected by this disease.
Despite the high number of new cases each year, colon cancer is still relatively misunderstood and not often discussed. However, it is essential for everyone to be aware of this disease and how they can prevent and screen for it.
Colon cancer is often asymptomatic in the early stages of the disease, which means that most people do not initially have any symptoms and might not see a doctor until the disease has progressed, potentially making it more difficult to treat. The best chance for a positive outcome is to follow recommendations to have annual cancer screenings in order to detect if any potential cancerous polyps exist in the colon. Without any symptoms, routine screening is the best way to catch cancer in its earliest stages.
Early diagnosis relies on people being aware of their risk for this type of cancer and communicating with their doctor about different screening options and how often the tests should be done. Currently, the US Preventive Task Force recommends annual colorectal cancer screening with a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), also called an immunochemical fecal occult blood (iFOB), test, beginning at age 50 until age 75. These recommendations, of course, may change based on an individual’s risk or medical history. A FIT is a rapid, point-of-care test, like ALFA’s iFOB, that detects the presence of occult, or hidden, blood in fecal matter that passes through the intestines where polyps, growths of cells on the lining of the colon or rectum that are most often harmless, may occur. If a polyp bleeds, it could be an indication of a more serious diagnosis, like cancer.
While most people may support having regular cancer screenings, many are not aware that there are other screening options than more invasive procedures, like a colonoscopy. Fecal occult blood testing is just as effective, especially as a first-line colon cancer screening test. ALFA is proud to offer the iFOB, an easy-to-use colon cancer screening tool. This noninvasive test provides results quickly to identify patients who may require additional procedures to diagnose the cause of the occurrence of blood in the intestinal tract.
The iFOB is a great option for everyone, but especially for people who are uncomfortable with or refuse to have a colonoscopy. Awareness of the different testing options means that more people will gain access to screening, and fewer people will die from the disease.
Cancer awareness can also lead to people making healthier lifestyle choices. There are a number of behaviors that are associated with reducing the risk of colorectal cancers:
- Minimizing alcohol use
- Eating a high fiber, low fat diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising most days of the week
- Quitting smoking
In some cases, taking aspirin regularly can help reduce the risk of getting polyps or colon cancer; however, this isn’t the right choice for everyone as aspirin has also been linked to some serious health problems.
Colon cancer awareness starts with educating yourself about this disease. Talking to your doctor is a great place to start; he or she can give you the most accurate and up-to-date information for your particular situation.
To learn more about ALFA’s iFOB, get in touch with our customer service department today!