Men and women of all ages are diagnosed with colorectal cancer in Idaho. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death in our state.
The good news is that when caught early, colorectal cancer is very treatable. And colorectal screening through colonoscopy can even prevent cancer by removing precancerous polyps.
If you have any concerns about your colon health, don’t ignore the warning signs. Talk to your doctor immediately.
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- A change in bowel habits; constipation or diarrhea that lasts more than a couple of weeks
- A feeling that the bowel does not empty
- Bright red or very dark blood in the stool, black stools
- Stools that look narrower or thinner than normal
- Abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constant fatigue
- Unexplained anemia
People with any of these risk factors should talk with their doctor about early screening; those with no identified risk should begin screening at age 50:
- Family history of colorectal or endometrial cancer
- Having had polyps or colorectal cancer before
- History of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease
- Aging (most common over age 50)
- Race or ethnic background: Some racial and ethnic groups such as African-Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have a higher colorectal cancer risk. All of the reasons for this are not yet understood.
- Physical Inactivity
A diet low in animal fat and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables can help protect against colorectal cancer.
Other preventive measures include regular exercise, no tobacco use, and moderate or no alcohol use.
Steps to getting screened for colorectal cancer:
- Know your risk factors and family history.
- Follow the national guidelines for getting screened. Several types of tests may be recommended and you; your health care provider can identify the one that is right for you.
- Many feel colonoscopy is the “gold standard” for screening. In most cases, this test needs to be performed only once every 10 years.
- If you do not have a health care provider, click here to search online, or Call St. Luke’s at (208) 381-9000.
- Your health care provider can help you to decide which screening test is best for you and refer you to the appropriate provider. Often, a gastroenterologist will be the specialist performing the procedure.
- Insurance companies vary in their coverage for colonoscopies or other colorectal screening exams. You may want to call your insurance company to find out how much of the procedure will be paid. It is important to know the difference between a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy.
- Screening colonoscopy is performed in a person without symptoms, for the purpose of establishing a baseline. Occasionally an abnormality is discovered, but it is usually unexpected.
- Diagnostic colonoscopy is performed when a person is currently experiencing symptoms such as bleeding, pain, change in bowel habits, etc.
- Once your appointment is arranged, you will receive specific instructions regarding preparation for the exam. For a colonoscopy, you will generally be required to modify your diet for several days prior to the test. You will also be asked to follow instructions for cleaning out your colon in order to complete the exam. This means you will need to organize your personal schedule for a few days, including the day of the exam, to accommodate these necessary steps.