All patients aged 50 or older should be offered colorectal cancer screening. Diligent colorectal cancer screening—ideally in the form of regular colonoscopies—should prevent most colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancers begin as growths called polyps. Polyps typically take many years to grow and develop into cancer. A carefully and prudently performed colonoscopy should identify any at-risk polyps before they become cancerous.
In this case, an 80-year old Pierce county man went to the same clinic for his healthcare for 35 years. Despite regular visits to the doctor—including a number of visits over the years in which he reported a change in bowel habits, a potential hallmark of developing colorectal cancer—he was not offered any sort of colorectal cancer screening until he was 76. At that point, it was too late. A colonoscopy revealed a tumor in his colon. More tests established that the cancer had metastasized to his liver. Despite treatment, he died of metastatic colon cancer three years later.