Even if a patient does not have a family history of colorectal cancer, colorectal screening is one of the most powerful tools we as doctors have against the disease. Both men and women should get screened for colorectal cancer, as cancer that develops from polyps can take as many as 15 years to develop.
Detecting Colorectal Cancer & Polyps Early
The goal of colorectal screening is to detect colorectal cancer and polyps early. According to the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society, 90% of all patients who were screened diagnosed with colorectal cancer early are still alive 5 years later.
Colorectal screening is performed using several methods including:
- Blood tests
- Digital rectal exam
Explain to patients what each method is and how it is performed in easy to understand terms to help reduce anxiety. Make sure they understand that a screening test is used when there are no symptoms present. If they suffer from symptoms of colorectal cancer, then they would undergo diagnostic tests to understand what is causing those symptoms.
Who Should Get Screened?
Advise patients that as they turn 50 they should begin regular screening for colorectal cancer every 3 to 5 years. However, if the patient suffers from an IBD like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, has a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or certain genetic syndromes, they should begin screening earlier.
Patients who are overweight, of African or eastern European descent, or have a diet high in processed foods, alcohol, and who smoke tend to have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Hemorrhoids Do Not Cause Colorectal Cancer
If a patient who suffers from hemorrhoids and is worried about their health, reassure them that hemorrhoids do not cause colorectal cancer. Though they may share some symptoms, like blood in the stool, patients should be put at ease with an explanation of what hemorrhoids are and how they develop. If being treated for hemorrhoids, review their treatment options based off of their diagnosis and grade of hemorrhoid.