Cancers of the colon and rectum, often collectively referred to as colorectal cancer, are life-threatening tumors that develop in the large intestine. It is the third most common cancer in the United States. More than 90 percent of colorectal tumors develop from a type of polyp called adenomatous polyps. Adenomatous polyps, also called adenomas, are a specific type of polyp that has a greater likelihood of changing into cancer. Because of this risk, adenomas are considered precancerous.
Adenomas are gland-like growths that develop on the mucous membrane that lines the large intestine. When adenomas become malignant (cancerous), they are referred to as adenocarcinomas, which is the most common type of colorectal cancer.
So how do you lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer? First, get screened. If you are aged 50 or older, you should be getting regular colonoscopies. If you have no family history of colon cancer, you should schedule a screening colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50. However, if you have a family history, your risk is much higher and you should have screenings every five years beginning at age 40, or 10 years prior to your closest relative’s age at the onset of cancer, if that is less than 40. For example, if your grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer at 45, you should be screened every five years beginning at age 35. African Americans are also at higher risk, and should begin screening at age 45. If polyps are found during your colonoscopy, the frequency at which they should be repeated will be increased, according to your physician’s recommendation.
If you have insurance, preventive screening colonoscopies are typically covered at 100 percent or for very little out of pocket expense to the patient. Check with your insurance provider to confirm your exact coverage.
Second, healthy lifestyle measures are also extremely important. One of the best ways to prevent colorectal cancer is to engage in a healthy lifestyle:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet low in meat and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Do not smoke
- Do not drink alcohol in excess
Baptist Health Floyd offers an Open Access Colonoscopy program to make the screening procedure more accessible to patients. Patients age 50 and older, without significant illnesses, can schedule a colonoscopy screening, usually without a pre-procedure visit. For additional information about this program, complete our Open Access Questionnaire by clicking here. For assistance in completing the form, please call 1-800-4-SOURCE.