👋 How Can We Help Make Health Care Better?
Life gets busy. As we spend our days getting stuff done, it’s easy to forget about important and potentially life-saving health screenings — including those meant to detect early signs of cancer.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. What better time than now to take action to help protect you and your loved ones? The first step is to better understand colorectal cancer and who’s at risk.
Also referred to as colon cancer, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. among both men and women1. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as we get older, with more than 90% of cases occurring in people over the age of 502. Individuals who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with colorectal, breast or uterine cancer may be at higher risk, and lifestyle choices can also play an influential factor3.
The good news is that 90% of colorectal cancers and deaths are believed to be preventable.3 And when detected early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable1. Currently, over one million colorectal cancer survivors can be found in the U.S. alone1. Early detection, however, relies on people taking the time to get screened. The American Cancer society recommends that individuals of average risk start screening for colon and rectal cancers at age 451. Some insurance plans advise their members to start screenings at age 50, so be sure to check with both your plan and your doctor.
Colonoscopies are among the most commonly known screening options for colorectal cancers. During a colonoscopy procedure, your provider uses a lighted scope with a camera to view the inside of your colon and rectum for signs of potential cancer. Colonoscopies can also be used to identify and remove pre-cancerous polyps to prevent future cancer from developing, as well as to collect tissue for additional testing.
When results come back normal, providers will typically recommend screenings once every ten years. Providers may also recommend using a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years to examine the lower section of colon and rectum where most polyps exist. Again, be sure to discuss screening frequency and recommendations with your provider.
For individuals without a family history of colorectal cancers or polyps, providers may also recommend annual screenings with fecal occult blood tests, typically starting at age 50. These tests look for blood in the stool, which may be an indication of polyps.
Along with screenings, there are proactive steps you can take in your daily life to help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. These include eating a well-balanced diet that is high in fiber from fruits and vegetables, as well as low in fat and processed meats. Exercising regularly, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, and smoking cessation may also help protect you from colon and rectal cancers.
If you or someone you love is due for a colorectal cancer screening — or even if you’re not sure — contact your provider today to discuss your options. You may also want to reach out to your health plan to learn about their guidelines for screenings, and to see if they offer preventative tools and resources to help you adopt healthier lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk.
If you’re looking for a health plan that takes a more proactive approach in your annual screenings and preventative wellness, give us a call as well at (800) 467-4898. We’re here to help you live healthier.