Did you spend time with Laverne & Shirley, the Bunkers, the Jeffersons, Mork from Ork, and the Six Million Dollar Man? Do you remember watching the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s miracle on ice, stretched out in front of your family’s RCA Victor console TV? Although all of these shows and events happened more than 30 years ago, they’re reminders that you’re at the age for a screening of a very different kind.
Every Delawarean 50 years of age or older should have a colon cancer screening.
In both Delaware and the United States, colon cancer — also known as colorectal cancer — is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women, and it’s also the third-most common cause of cancer death. But you can prevent it. In most cases, people develop the disease because of growths called polyps, which form in the colon. Over time, polyps can become cancerous. You can find them and eliminate them before they become cancerous.
How can you do it? If you’re 50 years of age or older, you can do one of two things:
- Get a colonoscopy — A colonoscopy is a procedure performed by a health care provider called a gastroenterologist, who will look at your colon using a special technology to locate polyps that could become cancerous. The screening can remove polyps on the spot, if they are found, to decrease the future risk of colon cancer.
- Take a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) — A FIT test finds blood in your stool, which can be a sign that you are at risk for colon cancer. The test will be given to you by your health care provider and is done at home, where you collect several samples of your stool and then send those samples to a lab for testing. You’ll receive results from your health care provider.
You may need a colorectal cancer screening sooner if you are at greater risk for colon cancer. You’re at greater risk if you:
- Eat a diet high in red and/or processed meats
- Are obese
- Consume a lot of alcohol
- Have Type 2 diabetes
- Are African-American
- Have a history of colorectal adenomatous polyps
- Have a history of colon cancer
- Have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease
Talk to your health care provider about your risks and discuss which screening is best for you. It’s important to get screened. For those who don’t have insurance or whose insurance won’t cover these screenings, there’s a program in Delaware called Screening for Life that can help. You can learn about Screening for Life and also ask a nurse navigator to schedule a screening for you by visiting HealthyDelaware.org/ScheduleScreening.