By: Daniel Kvale, PA-C
Bison Community Clinic – Bison, SD
Nearly every one has been touched in some manner by a friend or family member with cancer. Some cancers strike without warning and can be fatal, while other cancers are slow growing and can be successfully screened for. In March, Horizon Health Care, Inc. recognizes National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to bring attention both to the prevalence of colon cancer and the important role screening plays in preventing colon cancer.
Colon cancer screening should begin at age 50 for both men and women with an average risk for developing colon cancer. People who experience symptoms like abdominal pain, bloody or black stools, unexplained weight loss or change in bowel habits should be screened regardless of their age.
There are several options available to screen for colon cancer. Non-invasive methods of screening include a fecal immunochemical test (FIT test) or stool DNA test. These tests detect blood or DNA in the stool, and if positive, require additional screening. FIT tests are given out in your doctor’s office to be completed at home. When they are returned to the office, they are immediately read to determine if blood is present in the stool. As a screening tool, the FIT test should be done on annual basis.
The American Cancer Society also recommends colonoscopy screening as an option for those who would like to lengthen the interval between screenings, have a higher risk for colon cancer or for people with a positive stool test. Colonoscopies are more expensive, invasive and require a bowel preparation. The physician directly observes the colon and can remove and test any suspicious polyps or lesions during the procedure. As a screening tool, the colonoscopy should be performed at least every 10 years.
If detected early, colon cancer is highly treatable. This March, Horizon Health Care, Inc. encourages you to take the first step towards preventing colon cancer by getting screened. Visit with your local primary care provider to determine what screening method is best for you and schedule your screening today.