March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!
Feb 19, 2021
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2021 are:
104,270 new cases of colon cancer
45,230 new cases of rectal cancer
Lifetime risk of colorectal cancer
Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 23 (4.3%) for men and 1 in 25 (4.0%) for women. This risk is slightly lower in women than in men. A number of other factors also affect your risk for developing colorectal cancer.
Deaths from colorectal cancer
In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. It's expected to cause about 52,980 deaths during 2021.
The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. There are a number of likely reasons for this. One is that colorectal polyps are now being found more often by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers or are being found earlier when the disease is easier to treat. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States. Although the overall death rate has continued to drop, deaths from colorectal cancer among people younger than age 55 have increased 1% per year from 2008 and 2017.
Can colorectal polyps and cancer be detected early?
Screening is the process of looking for cancer or pre-cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease. Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer.
Screenings can often find colorectal cancer early, when it's small, hasn't spread, and might be easier to treat. Regular screening can even prevent colorectal cancer. A polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. With screening, doctors can find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
Why is colorectal cancer screening important?
When colorectal cancer is found at an early stage before it has spread, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 90%. But only about 4 out of 10 colorectal cancers are found at this early stage. When cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.
Unfortunately, about 1 in 3 people in the US who should get tested for colorectal cancer have never been screened. This may be because they don't know that regular testing could save their lives from this disease, or due to things like cost and health insurance coverage issues.
What type of screening does Suburban Imaging offer?
CT Virtual Colonoscopy, offered at Suburban Imaging – Southdale (Edina), uses a CT exam to create high-resolution images of the colon. It is used to detect polyps and cancer in the colon. Good candidates for this screening are those who are 50 years of age or older and are at average to moderate risk of developing colon cancer. Moderate risk individuals are those with a first-degree relative who have had colon cancer before age 60 or multiple first-degree relatives who were diagnosed at any age.
Virtual Colonoscopy is covered by most health plans, including BCBS of MN, Medica and Cigna. Check with your insurance company to verify coverage.
Virtual Colonoscopy screening is not appropriate for everyone. Speak with your healthcare provider to discuss your colon cancer screening options and what is right for you.