Dr. Laurel Hartwell | Gastroenterology & Hepatology

In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed among men and women, and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Most colorectal cancer begins as a benign adenoma or polyp that develops on the lining of the colon or rectum.

It is suggested to start screening for polyps at age 50. Your doctor can identify high-risk patients— such as those with family history, history of genetic diseases, or inflammatory bowel disease— and encourage screening before age 50 to help reduce deaths from the disease.

Colon cancer can be prevented with the detection and removal of polyps during a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a safe procedure that is performed under sedation, which can be scheduled every 10 years if no polyps are found. If you have polyps or family history, a colonoscopy might be recommended every three to five years.

Risk factors for developing colorectal cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Consuming red meat or non-dairy (meat-associated) fat intake in excess
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of colon cancer

Certain symptoms might indicate this cancer:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Narrower than normal stools
  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Unexplained change in bowel habits
  • Unexplained anemia

If you are experiencing any symptoms, such as those found above, please contact your doctor and schedule your colonoscopy.

For those with low risk, there are alternatives to colonoscopy such as stool-based tests including FIT and Cologuard.® Please discuss with your provider which option is appropriate for you.