Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Alberta and affects about 1 in 17 women and 1 in 14 men in their lifetime. If you’re 50 to 74 years old, it’s important to get screened regularly.1
What is colorectal cancer screening?
Colorectal cancer screening (or colon cancer screening) means looking for early signs of cancer in people who feel well and have no symptoms. Colorectal cancer is easier to treat when found at an early stage. In fact, 90% of cases can be treated successfully if found early.2
Although colorectal cancer can happen at any age, your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. About 90% of cases are in people aged 50 and older. In Alberta, it’s recommended that people aged 50 to 74 years get screened with the FIT home stool test every year. After age 74 the benefits of screening may no longer outweigh the risks. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for colorectal cancer and when screening may no longer be of benefit.
Next to age, family history is the most common risk factor for colorectal cancer. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child), especially if that person was younger than 60 years old when they were diagnosed, you’re at higher risk. Or if there’s a history of advanced (high risk) adenomas, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about when you should be screened. Certain risk factors such as family history may mean you start screening at age 40 or even younger1.
The 2 main screening tests for colorectal cancer are:
- FIT home stool test: This test looks for blood in your stool (poop) that you can’t see. It’s an easy test that you can do at home. If blood is found in your stool, you will need a colonoscopy to make sure the blood isn’t caused by cancer.
- Colonoscopy: This test lets a healthcare provider see the inside lining of your rectum and colon. This is done with a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope. If polyps or tissue growths are found they can be removed during the test.
Both of these tests find problems early and help save lives. Talk to your healthcare provider about which screening test is right for you and how often you need to have it. Learn more about which test may be right for you.
1. Toward Optimized Practice. Colorectal Cancer Screening Clinical Practice Guideline. November 2013. 2. 2019 Report on Cancer Statistics in Alberta. Surveillance & Reporting. Cancer Research & Analytics, Alberta Health Services.