A Med First Health Care Initiative

Many people do not know that in the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined.

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum and can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the final part of the digestive tract which is called the large intestine and rectal cancer begins in the tissue of the rectum.

Colon cancer typically affects older adults, though it can happen at any age. It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Because polyps may be small and often produce few if any, symptoms, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer. It is important to know that many people do not have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease, so getting screening is very important.

Some risk factors that may increase your risk of developing colon cancer are:
  • African American race
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Heavy usage of alcohol
Some symptoms of colon cancer are:
  • A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Unexplained or unintended weight loss
  • Cramping or belly pain
Screening for colorectal cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends that non-high-risk people (no family history of colorectal cancer or symptoms) begin getting regular screenings at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test) or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam) such as a colonoscopy or a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

There are two main types of screenings for colorectal screenings; visual and stool-based tests. The easier and less invasive way to screen for colorectal cancer looks for hidden blood in the stool from the lower intestines via stool tests such as FIT or a stool-DNA test. The stool DNA test (also known as a multitargeted stool DNA test[MT-sDNA] or FIT-DNA) looks for certain abnormal sections of DNA from cancer or polyp cells and also for hidden blood. Colorectal cancer or polyp cells often have DNA mutations in certain genes and these mutated cells often get into the stool, where tests may be able to find them. The only test currently available in the US able to test for both DNA changes and blood in the stool is Cologuard. Our Med First teams are able to order the Cologuard kit, which then is mailed to your home with instructions on how to complete the test. It is completed from the privacy of your own home and then mailed back via the provided kit and instructions. Once you have sent the test kit back, you should have an appointment scheduled with your Med First provider to review the results. The Cologuard test typically only needs to be completed once every 3 years.

If you are concerned about symptoms you have previously had or are currently having, have a family history of colorectal cancer, or just want to begin the preventative screening, Med First can help! It is our priority to partner with you to help you get necessary preventative screenings in order to stay healthy. Apart from our dedicated teams at each location, we have a Quality Department team that is focused on coordinating the healthcare services that you need. They may call you to schedule an appointment to discuss the test you are due for, schedule you for your test, remind you to complete the test, and ensure you review results with your Med First provider.

Do you already have the Cologuard kit and need information on how to complete it? Go to: https://www.cologuard.com/colon-cancer-screening-support-resources#

To contact the Med First Quality Department call (910) 455-0052 or email quality@thinkmedfirst.com