Angie is one of the Everlywell in-house Registered Nurses. Angie’s experience is broad, ranging from public health/preventive care to long-term acute care and family medicine. Angie is passionate about helping others understand how to improve their overall health and well-being—and is a two-time nominee for the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses.
If you or a loved one is 45 or older, it may be time to start the conversation about colon cancer screenings.
Did you know colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., but it’s highly treatable if caught early? In fact, you can easily take steps to help prevent colon cancer with the simple stroke of a brush using a fecal immunochemical test (FIT).
We asked our in-house Registered Nurse, Angie, to help answer some of the most common questions about colon cancer screenings, including how often you should get screened and how to bring up the topic with a loved one whose screening is overdue. Here’s what she said.
Angie: It’s perhaps an unconventional choice, but I think this is one of our most important and impactful tests. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the U.S., but screening methods like our FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test* can help catch it early when it can be best treated. My public health background taught me the importance of proactive prevention, so I am a big advocate for screening programs and early detection methods.
What is it? Angie: Colorectal cancer, which is also known as colon cancer or rectal cancer, can start in the colon or the rectum. Colon cancer can spread to other parts of the body when it is not detected and treated early. However, colon cancer almost always develops from abnormal growths, known as precancerous polyps, that can be identified and removed before they turn into cancer using colon cancer screening technologies like a colonoscopy.
Is it preventable? Angie: The truth is, colon cancer can affect anyone. But some risk factors like genetics, age, family history, tobacco and alcohol habits, diet and physical activity, and race and ethnicity are common colon cancer risk factors to be aware of. You can read more about the risk factors in our blog on why colon cancer screenings are more important than ever.
Angie: It’s so important to keep up with all preventative screenings, including screening for colon cancer. Your healthcare provider can help you determine what screenings are indicated for you based on many factors, including your age, medical history, and family history. The American Cancer Society estimates the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer to be about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women. The positive news is that there are many screening methods available now, and when detected early, colorectal cancer is very treatable.
Angie: Adults between the ages of 45 and 75 years old who are at average risk for colorectal cancer and are not experiencing any signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer should be screened. Those who fall outside of that age range, are at higher risk based on factors like other medical diagnoses or family history, or who are experiencing signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer should speak with their healthcare provider to determine the best next steps. The frequency of screening depends on the method used to screen. For some people, a colonoscopy every ten years is appropriate, whereas some other methods like a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) should be done annually.
Angie: The best way to determine which screening method is right for you is to have a conversation with your healthcare provider. There are many factors that your provider will likely take into consideration when making this determination, including how often that method will need to be done, where it can be performed (either at home or in the office), any preparation needed, and insurance coverage if applicable.
Wondering how often should you screen for colon cancer? The recommended frequency of screenings depends on the screening method. Here is what the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends:
Angie: Your Everlywell test results will tell you if the lab detected blood in the sample that you provided. A positive result does not mean that you have colon cancer—it simply means you need to share the results with your healthcare provider to discuss next steps, which may include a colonoscopy.
Angie: If I were to start a conversation about colon cancer screenings with a friend or family member who just turned 45 and may not know they should get screened, or who I knew was overdue, I would want to do some prep myself first. You likely know if your loved one is more likely to respond to data like facts and figures or if you’ll be more impactful if you appeal to their emotions or a bit of both.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance have great patient-friendly information readily available. I would also try to find out why my loved one hasn’t gotten screened yet—it could be something simple like they don’t want to call for an appointment and wait on hold. Do you have a few minutes that you could spend helping them with that? Or maybe they’re apprehensive about the preparation involved with some screening methods or hesitant about invasive screening methods in general.
The FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test from Everlywell might be a good option in these cases since there is no prep needed, it’s non-invasive, and it can be done from the comfort of home. You simply collect your own sample with the stroke of a brush, mail it to the lab for testing, and receive your secure digital results on any device. From there, you may share your results, which will show you if you are negative or positive for blood in your stool, with your healthcare provider to discuss next steps.
Encourage your loved one to talk to their healthcare provider about different options; they may even take you up on an offer to come to the appointment with them for support!
Angie: Yes! The recommendation used to start at age 50, but experts now recommend that for people of average risk, colorectal cancer screenings start at age 45. Why? In recent years, there has been a small increase in the number of new cases of colorectal cancer in adults under the age of 50. Also, the earlier colorectal cancer is detected, the more successful treatments are. Screening and finding any potential issues early can stop them from becoming larger problems down the road.
You already know that taking control of your general health and wellness is easy and convenient with at-home lab tests from Everlywell, so why not take the same preventative steps for something as important as colon cancer? If you’re between 45 - 75, and you’re at average risk of colorectal cancer, learn more about our FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test, which can help detect early signs of colon cancer with the simple stroke of a brush.
*Disclaimer: Do not use this test if you have adenomas, inflammatory bowel disease, certain hereditary syndromes, or a personal family history of colorectal cancer. Not a replacement for a colonoscopy. The test is designed to show if blood is detected in your stool, which may be associated with colorectal polyps and cancers. False positive and negative results may occur. Any positive result should be shared with your healthcare provider and followed up with a colonoscopy.