Colorectal Cancer Screening Begins at Age 45: Free Screening Tests Available

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The newest guidance from the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society recommends that colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 45. The recommended age to begin screening was lowered because colorectal cancer cases are on the rise among individuals younger than 50. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

Early detection saves lives. It usually starts from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, which can develop into cancer over time. Sometimes polyps will bleed and a person may notice blood in their stool. Other symptoms of colorectal cancer may include abdominal pain or bloating that doesn’t go away or unexplained weight loss. But, it is important to remember that colorectal cancer does not always cause symptoms at first. This is why having screening tests for colorectal cancer on a regular basis is important to find colorectal cancer early when treatment works best. Colorectal cancer can be PREVENTED with regular screening and the removal of pre-cancerous polyps in the colon and/or rectum.

All women and men age 45 and older should be screened for colon cancer. The FIT (fecal immunochemical test) Kit is an at-home stool testing kit that looks for blood in a person’s stool. A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to view the inside of the entire colon to find and remove polyps in the colon or rectum. Talk to your doctor to determine which test is right for you and how often you should be screened.

Free colorectal cancer screening tests are available. The Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP) offers free tests for men and women age 45 and older who do not have health insurance. Take home fecal tests, such as FIT Kit are an easy and effective way to get screened. If the FIT test comes back abnormal, follow-up with a colonoscopy will be scheduled. Any follow-up procedures, including colonoscopies, will be covered at no out-of-pocket cost. If diagnosed with colorectal cancer, CSP staff will assist with the Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program (MCTP) application process. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Call 315-435-3653 or visit the CSP website to register for your free screening test.

Remember, if you are over 45 years old and do NOT have health insurance, call 315-435-3653 to see if you qualify for free colorectal cancer screening. Early detection of colorectal cancer saves lives. Take care of yourself and schedule your appointment today!