Colorectal cancer (colon cancer) may be the second leading cancer killer in the United States. But it’s also one of the most treatable—when caught early. You can do a lot to prevent this disease. Getting screened on a regular basis is key.
A screening is a test. It looks for a disease before any symptoms start showing. Colon cancer almost always starts from precancerous polyps. These are abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. If found, they can be easily removed before they turn into cancer. Regular screening can also find colon cancer in its earliest stages—when treatment works best.
When should you get screened?
Screenings generally begin at age 50. They continue at regular intervals until age 75. After that, consult with your doctor.
Some health agencies recommend screenings as early as 45 years old. That’s why it’s good to talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.
You may need to start screenings earlier than 50 years old if:
- You have a genetic syndrome. This could include familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
- You have an inflammatory bowel disease. This could include Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- You have a family history of the disease. Perhaps you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
Do any of these conditions apply to you? If so, then talk with your doctor about when to begin screening. Also discuss which test is best for you, and how often you should get tested.
What else can you do to prevent colon cancer?
To reduce your risk, studies show that the following can help:
- Avoid tobacco products
- Eat a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Increase physical activity
- Limit alcohol consumption
We can help.
- Take a look at our preventive schedule. You’ll find the types of care—including screenings—that you should get and when.
- Check out all our member resources. We’re so much more than health insurance. We’re your partner in health.
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