As we age, monitoring our health and ensuring we care for ourselves is more important than ever. One essential part of maintaining good health as a senior is being aware of the risks posed by colorectal cancer and getting screened for it regularly. Early detection increases your chances of successful treatment and could save your life.
Continue reading as the senior care specialists at Comfort Home Care in Rockville, MD, discuss what colorectal cancer is, who should be tested for it, and why screening is so important for seniors and their families.
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon and rectum. It is the third leading cause of death by cancer in the United States, according to cancer.gov. It usually starts as a growth called a polyp that forms on the inner wall of either organ. Over time, these polyps can become malignant if left untreated. The good news is that early detection through regular screenings can prevent many cases of colorectal cancer from developing into something more serious.
What is Colorectal Screening?
Colorectal screening is an examination of the rectum and colon. Often testing is done as a routine procedure and not just because a patient is having symptoms. The screening does look for abnormal tissue, polyps, and early signs of cancer. Various tests are available to detect these precancerous polyps or tumors. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend one or more screening tests to ensure you stay healthy.
Why Is It Important for Seniors?
Seniors are at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer due to various factors, including advancing age and lifestyle changes such as diet and decreased physical activity. Additionally, seniors may be less likely to schedule screenings due to barriers such as cost or lack of transportation to appointments. It’s important that seniors are aware of their increased risk and take steps to ensure they get screened regularly so any potential problems can be detected and mitigated early on.
One study found that the risk of dying from colorectal cancer was reduced by more than a third in people over age 75 who had been screened by colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, compared with people in the same age group who did not undergo either of these screening tests.
How Can I Get Screened?
Your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist will advise on which type of screening test would be best for you based on your risk factors – age, health history, family history – and preferences.
There are 5 types of tests used to screen for colorectal cancer
- Fecal occult blood test
- Virtual colonoscopy
- DNA stool test
Talk to your doctor about which screening is best for you.
How Often Should Seniors Get Screened?
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults of average risk should get a baseline colonoscopy at age 50 and repeat every 5-10 years. If you, or your loved one, is at an increased risk due to family history or other factors, then the starting age is 45 years old, with a follow-up dependent on your results and doctor recommendations.
Colorectal cancer is a serious health concern, and all seniors should be screened. The good news is that colorectal cancer is slow-growing, so early detection can result in successful treatment and long-term survival rates. Understanding the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer will help you understand the importance of getting screened regularly and allow you to discuss the available testing with your doctor.
For senior care in Rockville, MD, contact the devoted team at Comfort Home Care. Working together, you can create an environment where your loved ones feel respected and safe by promoting a proactive approach to understanding potential issues like colorectal cancer.