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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Importance of Early Detection

Cancer Care
Author name: Lee Health


colon cancer graphic

Let’s start with a quiz. Why, you may ask?

Because it’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!

This vital national campaign highlights the importance of screening for colorectal cancer and how healthy lifestyle habits can decrease your risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum – the two distinct cancer types that make up colorectal cancer.

When detected early, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, yet a third of at-risk adults have not taken steps to make sure their cancer is caught before it can advance, according to board-certified gastroenterologist Dr. Khalid Alam of Lee Health’s  gastroenterology department.

“Screening is the No. 1 way to prevent or detect this disease early, when it’s most treatable,” Dr. Alam says. “With early detection, colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate.”

Okay, let’s move on to see what you know about how to prevent colorectal cancer:

  1. Because you don’t have symptoms of colorectal cancer, you don’t have it. True or false?

False: Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially early on. “That’s why regular screening is so important,” Dr. Alam notes. “Screening can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon and rectum so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. It also finds the disease early, when treatment works best.”

  1. If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, at what age should you start screening?

    1. 40
    2. 45
    3. 50
    4. 60

Answer: 45. Most adults should start getting screened regularly at age 45. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often if you have:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).

“If you think any of these is true for you, ask your doctor when and how often you should be tested,” Dr. Alam advises.

Not only is a colonoscopy painful, preparing for it is awkward. True or false?

False: “The procedure’s not painful at all,” Dr. Alam says. “And there are different ways to make preparing for the colonoscopy go smoothly and comfortably as possible. Ask your doctor about them.”

  1. You can stop getting screened for colorectal cancer at what age?

    1. 60
    2. 65
    3. 70
    4. 75
    5. 80

Answer: 75. For people who are at average risk, regular screening is recommended for adults ages 45 to 75. If you’re between 76 and 85, talk to your doctor about screening.

  1. A colonoscopy is the only screening test for colorectal cancer. True or false?

False. For adults at average risk, there are different types of screening test options for colorectal cancer, including some that can be done at home. Talk to your doctor about screening test options and which one’s right for you. To learn more about colorectal screening and diagnosis options, go here. The best test is the one you do!

Colorectal Cancer Numbers in the Sunshine State

In Florida and in the U.S., colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death when men and women are combined. In 2019, 10,707 new cases (36 per 100,000 people) were reported to the Florida Cancer Data Registry for colon and rectum cancer, according to the Florida Department of Health. (2019 is the latest year for which this data is available).


Source: Florida Department of Health

Insurance and Medicare Coverage

Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay. For more information about Medicare coverage, visit or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1 (877) 486-2048. Check with your insurance plan to find out what benefits are covered for colorectal cancer screening.

For appointments with a Lee Health Gastroenterologist, visit our Gastroenterology page or call 239-343-6202.

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