Medical Monday: Screening key in finding colorectal cancer

CARIBOU, Maine - Colorectal cancer can affect anyone, of any age. In this week's Medical Monday, Kathy McCarty speaks with a family nurse practitioner about the disease.

When it comes to cancer, regular medical checkups are instrumental in finding the disease early. Family Nurse Practitioner Michelle Deprey says that's especially true with colorectal screenings.

"Among cancers that affect both men and women, colon cancer is the number two killer, and it is something that we can prevent."

Abnormalities in the colon can lead to cancerous polyps.

"Generally if you have a polyp in your colon, they can be pre-cancerous, and over time as we age, they can become cancer. So the whole goal for screening for colon cancer is that we're basically taking a look."

Screenings for colon cancer are recommended beginning at age 50 to 75. But in some cases, earlier screenings are recommended.

"There are some risk factors that people should be aware of that require patients to be screened earlier. So a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, patients that have genetic syndromes that can lead to needing earlier screening. So it's something if you know you have a family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, you know, you need to let your primary care know so that they can talk to you about earlier screening."

While there are several types of screenings available, one tops the list.

"The Gold Standard is actual colonoscopy, so we can visualize the entire colon and remove any pre-cancerous polyps before they turn into something more."

Deprey says followup screenings are scheduled based on what's found inside the colon. For more information about screenings, contact your primary care provider.