You Can Do It: Get Screened for Colon Cancer
If you’re turning 50 this year, Lehigh Valley Health Network specialists want you to mark the start of your next decade with a lifesaving colon cancer screening exam.
BY JENN FISHER
Turning 50 is a milestone, in more ways than one. To mark your first half century, your family doctor will recommend that you get screened for colon cancer.
Why do I need colon cancer screening?
After age 50, your risk for colon cancer greatly increases. Of the estimated 147,000 new colon cancer cases that will be diagnosed this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 90 percent will be diagnosed in people older than 50. “That’s why screening for colon-rectal cancer is so important once you celebrate your 50th birthday,” says family medicine physician Brian Stello, MD, with Lehigh Valley Family Health Center. “And since symptoms don’t typically appear until cancer is more advanced, finding it early through colon cancer screening can save your life.”
Precisely when you start colon cancer screenings is influenced by your age as well as your personal and family health history. In some cases, you may need to start those screenings at a younger age.
Am I at risk for colon cancer?
In addition to age, colon-rectal cancer is influenced by:
- Family history (of colon-rectal cancer or polyps)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Inherited conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer)
Lifestyle factors also can contribute to colon-rectal cancer, Stello says. “Being overweight, eating a diet high in fat and processed foods, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, consuming alcohol and using tobacco products also influence the development of colon cancer,” he says.
How is colon cancer detected?
Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for detecting colon cancer. An endoscope, which is a thin flexible tube with a tiny light and camera attached, is used to examine the lining of your colon and rectum. “If you find a polyp (an abnormal growth in the lining of the colon or rectum) before it is cancerous, it can be removed early, greatly decreasing the risk for cancer developing at all,” says hematologist oncologist Usman Shah, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology–1240 Cedar Crest.
To help provide convenient access to colonoscopy services, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) offers colonoscopy care at LVHN locations throughout the area. LVHN also works with Eastern Pennsylvania Gastroenterology and Liver Specialists, PC, which has an endoscopy center in Allentown (Eastern Pennsylvania Endoscopy Center) and will open a second location in Northampton County in summer 2020.
“While Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute offers exceptional care for people with colon-rectal cancer, our hope is that you will use this milestone birthday to do something important for yourself and get screened for colon-rectal cancer,” Shah says.
Learn more about colonoscopies and our convenient screening locations by visiting LVHN.org/colonoscopy.