Are You at Risk for Colon Cancer?Posted by Medicare Made Clear
According to Fight Colorectal Cancer Organization, it is estimated that this year, 137,000 men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer while another 50,000 will die from it.1 The median age at diagnosis is 69 years old.2 About one in three adults ages 50-75 are not up-to-date with recommended colorectal cancer screenings.3
African Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. This may be due to lower than average screening rates for this group.4 If a person isn’t getting screened and polyps are present, the polyps won’t be detected and removed while still in their precancerous state. This could result in the cancer developing and spreading before the diagnosis is made.
Most people will need to get screened for colon cancer at some point in their lives, usually at age 50. However, if you are in one of the high risk groups listed below, talk to your doctor to find out if you should be screened sooner or more often.
- You are age 50+. Over 90 percent of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over age 50. As we age, we are more likely to grow polyps which have the gene changes that turn normal tissue into cancer.5
- You have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps. While over 90 percent of colon and rectal cancers are found in people over the age of 50, anyone at any age can get colorectal cancer. If you or a family member has a history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps, you may be at an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
- You have a certain lifestyle. If you don’t get enough physical activity, are overweight, smoke, consume a lot of alcohol and eat too many red meats, processed meats and fats, you may be at higher risk for colorectal cancer.
What You Can Do About It
Colorectal cancer may be prevented by finding and removing precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer. If cancer has already developed, regular screening will often times detect it earlier when it’s typically easier to treat.
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer rates have dropped 30 percent in the U.S. in the last 10 years among adults ages 50 and older. This likely is due to the widespread use of colonoscopy, with the largest decrease occurring in those ages 65 and older.6
While screening is one of the most important ways to prevent colorectal cancer, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to help reduce your risk for polyps and colorectal cancer.
- If you smoke, quit
- Increase your physical activity
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid overall body fat, especially around your waist
- Limit red meat and processed meat consumption
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Consuming more dietary fiber, garlic and milk or foods with calcium may also help lower the risk of colorectal cancer
The Good News
Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for a screening colonoscopy. Medicare Part B covers a colonoscopy once every 24 months if you’re at high risk for colorectal cancer. If you aren’t at high risk for colorectal cancer, Medicare covers this test once every 120 months, or 48 months after a previous flexible sigmoidoscopy.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Fight Colorectal Cancer Organization
Colorectal Cancer Tests Save Lives: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures, 2014-2016: American Cancer Society
1, 2, 3, 4 Facts about Colorectal Cancer, Fight Colorectal Cancer, December 22, 2014
5 Risk Factors, Fight Colorectal Cancer, September 30, 2013
6 Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures, 2014-2016, American Cancer Society, December 23, 2014