Studies show nearly 2 million people received a cancer diagnosis in 2022, and close to 610,000 lost their lives to the disease. Following lung and breast cancer, colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third-most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the U.S. While colorectal cancer is most common in adults above the age of 50, rates of the disease in younger individuals have increased at an alarming rate of the last decade. A colonoscopy can help screen for early signs on colorectal cancer or other intestinal problems.
Colorectal cancer is a disease characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in the colon, rectum, or both. As of the writing of this article, around 106,000 and a little over 46,000 Americans have colon and rectal cancer, respectively. A colonoscopy can help to detect early signs of these diseases or prevent them from forming at all. Colorectal cancer does not discriminate based on age. Contrary to popular belief, colorectal cancer impacts the lives of young people as well as older adults.
In recent years, an increasing number of middle-aged and younger adults have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends individuals start screening for the disease when they turn 45 instead of age 50. The most effective way to check for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, a medical procedure whereby a physician examines the lining of one’s entire colon using a colonoscope. This medical device allows physicians to look for and remove polyps before they can turn into cancer. They can also use it to identify cancerous tumors in the colon and rectum. Other benefits to having a colonoscopy done at a younger age include:
Colorectal cancer symptoms can mimic symptoms of other diseases, including Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease that inflames the large and small intestines, and ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation of the large intestine only. Colonoscopies help physicians get to the root of an individual’s digestive health problem. For reference, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can trigger the following symptoms synonymous with colorectal cancer:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
Along with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also triggers symptoms commonly associated with colorectal cancer.
The earlier colorectal cancer is diagnosed and treated, the more likely individuals are to survive the disease. According to Cancer.net, the overall 5-year relative survival rate for CRC is 63%. If diagnosed at a localized stage, the disease’s 5-year survival rate is as high as 91%. If it has metastasized to neighboring tissues, organs, or regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate drops to 72%. These studies show that undergoing a preventative or diagnostic colonoscopy could save your life.
Private health insurance providers and Medicare cover colonoscopies at 100%, and this is because it is a cancer screening recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). While they are not without risk, colonoscopies are considered a safe procedure. Individuals receive sedation before the exam exam begins to reduce discomfort. And during the exam, their respiration and heart rate are both constantly monitored. According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, only 3 in 1,000 colonoscopies result in serious complications.
More and more younger people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer than ever before. Thankfully, fewer are losing their lives to the disease due to timely colonoscopies. If you’re aged 45 or over and have never been screened for colorectal cancer or have been experiencing any of the symptoms detailed in this article, schedule an appointment with Arizona Colorectal Experts, a physician-owned practice that takes great pride in accurately diagnosing and expertly treating colorectal cancer. If you are a new patient, fill out our online contact form to get started today!