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Your Guide to Colorectal Health

Medicare and Clover Health can be your partner in colorectal health.

By Clover Health

Colorectal Health: What You Need to Know

For years, turning 50 came with a special message from your healthcare provider: It’s time to have a colonoscopy. 

In this guide, we look at what you need to know about colorectal health including the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and risk factors.

Colorectal Cancer: The Importance of Screenings

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 50,000 Americans die from colon cancer every year. Both men and women are affected by this disease with a similar survival rate: 64.4 percent for women and 63.1 percent for men. If you look at these facts, it’s clear why early screening for colon cancer can be a life-saving decision. 

If detected early, the disease can be effectively treated—even cured. Let’s discuss the importance of screenings and tips for prevention.  

Colon cancer screening is important for two reasons:

1. Screening helps to identify polyps (abnormal tissue growths) in the colon so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

2. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at the initial stages when the disease is highly treatable and even curable.

When Do I Need to Get Screened for Colorectal Health?

It’s important to consult your healthcare provider about when to begin screening based on your age and family history of the disease.

That said, The American Cancer Society recommends that most people should start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45. For those above the age of 75, consult with your doctor if you should continue to be screened. 

You may need to begin screenings earlier or get screened more often if you have certain risk factors, such as family medical history, genetic conditions, or a history with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). 

Always check with your doctor, who can help identify when and how often you should get screened.

How to Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer 

Along with screenings, there are things someone can do to reduce their risk for colorectal cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society (ACS) indicates that 55 percent of colorectal cancers in the U.S. are attributed to controllable lifestyle factors. Here are a few things you can do to help decrease your risk.

Eat a balanced diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help reduce the risk associated with colorectal cancer. Eating processed meat (hot dogs) and red meat (pork, beef, or lamb) has been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Maintain a healthy weight: People who are obese or overweight are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer, especially men. Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk.

Get more regular physical exercise: Being more physically active by jogging, cycling, walking, dancing, and other exercises may lower the risk of many serious diseases, including colorectal cancer. 

Limit alcohol consumption: Moderate to heavy alcohol use, especially by men may increase the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. 

Quit smoking: A report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (ACS) indicates that excessive tobacco consumption can cause colorectal cancer.

Despite being the third most common cancer in the country, certain changes to your lifestyle can help you prevent the occurrence of colorectal cancer. Plus, regular screening can help improve the chances of early diagnosis and treatment. Talk with your primary care doctor to see when they recommend you get screened. 

At Clover Health, we understand the importance of regular screenings for colorectal cancer. If you’re a Clover Health member and have questions about what your plan covers, give our Member Services team a call at 1-888-778-1478.

 

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Kumar Dharmarajan and Dr. Sophia Chang.

Published 3/22/22

Photo credit: iStock