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A Test Could Save Your Life

Image of a doctor comforting a patient in an office settingCancer is a scary disease that we would rather not think about. And when it comes to cancer of the rectum or colon (colorectal cancer), we’d rather not talk about it either. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month so even though you find it embarrassing to talk about, now is a good time to have a conversation.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. That’s the bad news. The good news is finding it early means a much better chance of beating it. That’s why it’s important to follow testing schedules.

Most people should start colorectal cancer screenings at age 50. Those at higher risk, like African Americans and people with a history of colon polyps, should start at age 45. You should talk to your doctor about your risk factors. Even if you don’t have risk factors, you should still get tested because over 4 percent of people will develop colorectal cancer.

Tests that your doctor may recommend are a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. A colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy can find and remove growths called polyps. These may or may not be cancerous.

Alternatively, you could do a FIT (fecal immunochemical testing) test. It involves collecting a sample and mailing it to a lab. The lab will check for blood that could be a sign of polyps. This would need to be done yearly if you do not get a colonoscopy. Call your doctor to learn more and discuss which test is best for you. As always, if you have questions or need assistance, call Member Relations 24/7 at 1-888-477-9800 (TTY/PA RELAY 711).