Nearly 53,000 Americans die from colon cancer every year. Although colon cancer typically occurs in people over age 65, more than 10% of folks under 50 get diagnosed as well.
These staggering stats are enough to make you grab the phone and book a colon cancer screening right now, and we’re glad you’re motivated. But let’s take a closer look at who needs this test and when.
Dr. Ayub Hussain and our team at Northside Gastroenterology Associates in the Cypress and Katy areas of Houston, Texas, are dedicated to helping men and women detect signs of colon cancer early through regular screenings, so we can start treatment before the disease gets out of hand. To help you take control of your colon health, we’ve compiled the latest guidelines here.
Who’s at risk for colon cancer?
While the statistics regarding colon cancer deaths are alarming, it doesn’t mean that everyone should immediately get screened. To determine who needs to be screened and who doesn’t, we look at the factors that increase your risk for colon cancer as well as your age.
Low risk for colon cancer
If you’re younger than 45 and have no family history of colorectal cancer, you’re considered a low risk, and you don’t need to get screened yet.
Average risk for colon cancer
Most healthy men and women should start scheduling regular colon cancer screenings at age 50. At this age, even without a personal or family history of colon cancer, you’re considered at average risk due to your age.
High risk for colon cancer
Several factors increase your risk for colon cancer, including:
- Family history of colon cancer
- Personal history of colon cancer
- Ethnicity — Alaskan natives and African Americans are at higher risk
- Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease
- Excessive alcohol use
The higher your risk for colon cancer, the sooner you need to begin getting regular screens — at age 45 — and the more frequently you’ll need them.
Types and frequency of colon screening tests
Dr. Hussain uses several different tests to screen for colon cancer depending on your risk factors, age, and overall health.
In many cases, we can detect colon cancer simply by examining your stool. There are three types of stool tests, and each requires a different schedule.
- Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) should be administered once a year
- Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) should be administered once a year
- Multitarget stool DNA test (mt-sDNA) should be administered every three years
Dr. Hussain lets you know if you're a good candidate for any of these stool tests.
You may have heard about colonoscopies, the colon screening test that involves inserting a slender instrument through your anus and into your large intestine to visually assess your anatomy. But the colonoscopy isn’t the only test that allows us to evaluate your intestine structurally. Here are the three main visual tests and the recommended intervals:
- Colonoscopies can be administered every 10 years
- CT colonography can be repeated every five years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy can be administered every five years
Again, Dr. Hussain performs a thorough examination of your current health and your risk factors before recommending a specific type of test and a screening schedule.
Signs of colon cancer
The best time to catch and treat colon cancer is before you have any symptoms, which is why regular colon cancer screenings are vitally important. However, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may indicate the presence of colon cancer:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Narrow stools
- Rectal bleeding
- Bloody stool
- Abdominal cramping
- Unexplained weight loss
These symptoms do NOT mean you have colon cancer; they only indicate you need further tests. In fact, any of these symptoms may just as easily point to other gastrointestinal conditions — all the more reason to come in and find out for sure.
To schedule a colon cancer screening, call our friendly staff at either of our two Houston locations or book online today. It just may save your life.