Get Healthy Carson City: When it comes to colon cancer screening, you have a choice | NevadaAppeal.com

Get Healthy Carson City: When it comes to colon cancer screening, you have a choice

Veronica Galas
Carson City Health and Human Services

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal's Tuesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community. The information in the following column is from the Nevada Cancer Coalition, http://nevadacancercoalition.org/.

All men and women 50 and older should be screened for colorectal cancer. However, more than 1 in 3 Nevadans between the ages of 50 and 75 is not up to date with their colorectal cancer screening.

As we age, our risk of getting colon cancer goes up. Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that should not be there. Over time, some polyps turn into cancer.

At age 50, most medical groups advise starting colon cancer screening to look for the disease. There are several screening tests that have proven valuable when looking for colon cancer. The two most common options in Nevada are FIT/FOBT tests or colonoscopy. FIT/FOBT is a low-cost test you can do at home and mail to a lab that detects blood in feces. If your result is not normal, you will need a follow-up colonoscopy.

Those with a family history of colon cancer, especially close relatives who had colon cancer at a young age, may be at higher risk for the disease.

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A colonoscopy exam uses a flexible lighted tube inserted into your rectum and colon to check for polyps and cancer. You will need to use laxatives to prepare for the exam and will have medication for sedation during the exam. Colonoscopy can find cancer earlier, when it's easier to treat and cure, and during the test your doctor may find and remove polyps before they become cancer.

When it comes to colon cancer screening, the best test is the one that gets done.

Screening guideline

Up to age 49 — Talk to your health care provider about your family history of colon cancer or other risk factors to decide whether you should begin screening early.

Age 50 and older — At 50 begin colon cancer screening. Get a colonoscopy every 10 years or FIT/FOBT test every year.

Do I have genetic risk?

Those with a family history of colon cancer, especially close relatives who had colon cancer at a young age, may be at higher risk for the disease. Those at higher risk should talk with their health care provider about whether they should receive genetic counseling for genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome, which causes about 3 percent of colon cancer cases. Genetic counselors can help by providing information, resources, and support to help patients and their families make informed decisions about genetic testing.

Low-cost Screenings

The State of Nevada's Colorectal Cancer Control Program funds free colon cancer screening for qualified individuals aged 50-64 who are uninsured or underinsured. Check out the website provided or call Access to Healthcare Network to learn more at 844-469-4934 or http://www.accesstohealthcare.org/services-for-individuals/colorectal-cancer-screening/.

Nevada Cancer Coalition also has an online resource directory that can be used to locate medical resources. This directory can be found at: http://nevadacancercoalition.org/resource-directory?combine=Colorectal.

For information about services and programs available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, please visit our website at gethealthycarsoncity.org, follow us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/cchhs, or call us at 775-887-2190. You can also find us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.