By this time in March, you may have heard that it’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. And with spring in the air and other health awareness promotions competing for your attention, it’s easy to lose the significance of that. But colon cancer is really important. It’s the third most common cancer in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer death. It’s also one of the most preventable cancers. Up to 75 percent of cases could be avoided through living a healthy lifestyle and getting screened.
Most people should start colon cancer screening at age 50. And it’s important to talk to a doctor about which screening test may be best for you, when you should start screening, and how often you should get screened.
Yet, as important and effective as screening is, it’s only natural to have some questions or concerns about it. Below, we list some common barriers that can get in the way of screening and then try to put them into perspective.
For more information on screening and prevention, see our 8 Ways to Prevent Colon Cancer.
I don’t want to know if I have cancer
Colon cancer is scary. But, it’s also very treatable if found early. And that’s what screening can do. Even better, screening can also help prevent cancer from developing in the first place. Two great reasons to get screened.
I don’t have time
Between work, family, and other duties, it can be hard to fit anything extra into your days. But, some screening tests, like FIT and gFOBT, are actually really quick and easy, taking just a few minutes. Talk to your provider to find a test that fits your schedule.
My doctor hasn’t told me I should be screened
If you’re 50 or over and your doctor hasn’t brought up screening, YOU should. It’s important. Just ask.
I’ve heard that prep for a colonoscopy is no fun and takes a long time
To get accurate views during a colonoscopy, the colon must be cleared out. So, you need to use a special laxative or enema the night or morning before the exam. You’ll spend a good amount of time in the bathroom and may have some bloating, mild stomach pain, or similar issues. It isn’t pleasant and does take a while, but most people feel it isn’t too bad to get through. And, typically, it only needs to be done once every ten years. If prep time or other issues make a colonoscopy hard to get, stool tests (FIT/gFOBT) are quick screening options that don’t need prep.
I heard screening can be risky
Screening is very safe. Some tests, like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, do have some medical risks, but serious problems are very rare. Overall, the benefits of screening far outweigh any possible harms. Talk with a provider about any concerns and, together, you can decide which test is best for you.
I can’t afford screening
Colon cancer screening is covered by most health insurance. But plans can vary, so talk with your provider’s office about what different tests may cost you. If the cost of screening is an issue, FIT and gFOBT can be more affordable options.