Routine screening essential for early colorectal cancer detection

Routine screening essential for early colorectal cancer detection

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among both American men and women. Each year, approximately 140,000 American adults are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. In 2018, over 50,000 deaths are expected to be caused by the disease.

Colorectal cancer usually does not present itself with symptoms until it is in an advanced stage; however, routine screening can often detect colorectal cancer at a time when it is more likely to be treatable.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that begins in the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps, small growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.2 Some polyps become cancerous over the course of a few years, while others remain benign. If a polyp becomes cancerous, the cancer will eventually grow into the wall of the colon and/or rectum. There, the cancer can spread to nearby blood vessels or lymph nodes, as well as other parts of the body.

A variety of lifestyle factors are linked to colorectal cancer risk, including:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not engaging in regular physical activity
  • Eating a diet high in processed meats
  • Smoking
  • Abusing alcohol

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help decrease your risk for colorectal cancer, as well as other forms of cancer. For more information about diet and physical activity aimed at cancer prevention, see the American Cancer Society’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines.

Other non-modifiable factors are linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Those with any history of colon cancer or other bowel diseases have an increased risk (5-10% more than average) of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Additionally, those over the age of 50 have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Regarding race and ethnicity, African Americans have the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the United States; however, the reasons for this are not yet understood by scientists. Those with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of colorectal cancer and tend to have a less favorable prognosis when going through treatment.

Screening for colorectal cancer

Regular screenings can detect colorectal cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most effective.  If it is detected at stages I or II, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%. The American Cancer Society advises that those over the age of 45 screen each year, but those with a higher risk of colorectal cancer due to genetic or lifestyle factors may need to begin screening earlier.3

There are a variety of screening methods for colorectal cancer. The most well-known method is the colonoscopy, a procedure during which a flexible tube is used to look inside the entire colon and rectum. This process is invasive though, and requires preparation, making it less than ideal as a yearly screening method.

Other methods of colorectal screening are less invasive and less costly, making them easy to implement in an annual wellness program.  Quest Diagnostics Health & Wellness offers one such screening program. The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is used to screen for colorectal cancer as part of our InSure® ONE™ product offering. FIT analyzes samples for blood, which is generally a sign of polyps or colorectal cancer. InSure ONE is unique, as it does not require handling stool; the samples needed are water-based. This method, implemented through home-collection kits, is an easy-to-use, private, non-invasive way to screen for colorectal cancer.

This National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, help raise awareness about this preventable disease, and check out the InSure® ONE™ Product Overview to learn how adding colorectal screenings to your employee-wellness program can save lives.

  1. “Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer.” American Cancer Society. 2017. 
  2. “What is Colorectal Cancer?” American Cancer Society. 2017. 
  3. “What tests are used to screen for colorectal cancer?” American Cancer Society. 2017. 

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