Colon Cancer Screening Is Critical for African Americans



No one looks forward to colon cancer screenings, but they are an essential part of preventive care. Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but regular screenings can detect cancer in the early stages and even prevent the disease.

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is a growth that begins in the colon, also known as the large intestine. Most colon cancers start as polyps, tiny growths that form on the inner lining of the colon. Fortunately, both colon cancer and precancerous polyps can be detected and removed by a GI doctor during a colonoscopy.

African Americans Are at Increased Risk of Colon Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer rates are higher among African Americans than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. Compared to other groups, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to develop colon cancer and 40 percent more likely to die from the disease. Studies also show African Americans are at higher risk of developing polyps on the right side of the colon, which are often more challenging to detect.

Common Barriers to Colon Cancer Screenings

Research sheds light on barriers that may prevent people from getting screened. Fear of discomfort, cost, and lack of time are among the top reasons African American individuals have reported for delaying colonoscopy or avoiding the procedure altogether. Here’s a look at each of these reasons, along with an explanation of why they shouldn’t stop you from having this potentially life-saving screening.

I Am Worried a Colonoscopy Will Be Uncomfortable

Patients are sedated during colonoscopy, and the entire procedure can take less than an hour, so you won’t have to worry about discomfort. Colonoscopy allows a gastroenterologist to examine the entire colon and remove precancerous polyps before they develop into cancer. Among all colon cancer screening methods, colonoscopy is the most effective test for both detecting and preventing cancer.

I’m Concerned a Colonoscopy Will Be Too Expensive

If you haven’t been screened before, you may believe that getting tested is very expensive. However, due to the Affordable Care Act, most screening colonoscopies are free and don't include a deductible or out-of-pocket payment. We recommend you talk with your doctor’s office about colonoscopy coverage since there are some requirements such as age, prior history of polyps, etc. You also have the right to choose where you want to have your colonoscopy, and can help you find a location nearby.

I Can’t Spare the Time It Takes for a Colonoscopy

Putting off your screening may increase your risk for colon cancer. Young-onset colon cancer is on the rise, especially in the Black community. It may seem like work, family and life’s demands are more critical, but nothing is more essential than your health.

The Importance of Colon Cancer Screening

All adults at average risk for colon cancer should get a baseline screening at age 45, but individuals with a family history of colon cancer should get screened earlier. It is also important that patients who develop symptoms that may be due to colon cancer (e.g., altered bowel habits, rectal bleeding or abdominal pain) seek medical attention, regardless of age.

Locate a Gastroenterologist Near You

Have you been putting off getting screened because of the cost, your schedule or general uncertainty? A colon cancer screening is one of the most important  gifts you can give your family. Your loved ones want you to be healthy and cancer-free, so make an appointment today.

We can help you find a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist in your area. Click here to find a list of our GI centers nationwide.