Ten Ways to Encourage Loved Ones to Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer

You can make a difference by helping a loved one prevent or detect colorectal cancer early.

National guidelines recommend that people at average risk should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. However, about one in three eligible people have not been checked for colorectal cancer.

While many people are aware of the benefits of getting screened, they may need a little encouragement from their family and friends to follow through. You can play a significant role in your loved one’s health by providing that support. 

The reasons why some people have not had screening may vary, so try a range of approaches to motivate them. Here are ten ways you can help your loved one get screened for colorectal cancer:

1. Ask your loved one if they have considered getting screened.

It can be a sensitive topic, so plan your approach. You could start the conversation by saying, “I saw on the news that about one third of adults who are eligible for screening for colorectal cancer have never been screened. Did you see that?” 

2. Try to understand why they haven't been screened.

Your friend or family member may not have had a colorectal cancer screening out of fear. Some people are afraid of having anesthesia, or maybe they’re heard some stories about the prep. Once you understand what is holding your loved one back, you can help them overcome that barrier. You can also mention at-home tests available for people at average risk.

3. Appeal to your loved one's emotional side.

Remind your friend or family member just how much you love them and that you want to enjoy spending time together for as long as possible. Explain putting off screening could result in getting diagnosed with a later stage of colorectal cancer, which may be more difficult to treat. While they may not prioritize getting screened for themselves, they may be inspired to do it for you or someone they love. 

4. Then try to appeal to their logical side.

Ask your friend or family member if they know the facts about why screening for colorectal cancer is important. Do they know that the risk of colorectal cancer increases at age 45? Do they know that when caught early, 90 percent of colorectal cancers are treatable? Sharing these facts with them may help address some of their concerns.

5. Send an email with helpful resources.

If you're not comfortable talking in person with someone about getting screened for colorectal cancer, send them an email. Provide some important resources – such as the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s free screening quiz that provides a personalized recommendation – so they can learn about the importance of getting screened and their screening options.

6. Talk with them about the different options available today.

Many people think that a colonoscopy is their only screening option. Technology advancements have enabled other screening methods, including structural or visual exams (such as flexible sigmoidoscopy and virtual colonoscopy) and at-home, noninvasive stool tests (such as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), and multi-target stool DNA test (also known as Cologuard®). Suggest that your loved one talk with their healthcare provider about the most appropriate screening option for them.

7. Connect them with a friend who has recently been screened.

Who better understands the process of getting screened than someone who has gone through it? Ask someone else who has been tested to bring up the conversation with your friend or family member. They may offer insights you won't get from other resources

8. Lead by example and get screened yourself. 

If you are between 45 and 75 years old, make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened. Going through the process will allow you to better explain it to your loved one. 

9. Celebrate once they are up to date with their screenings!

When they follow through with their colorectal cancer screening, find a meaningful way to mark the achievement together, such as a night out on the town or weekend away. Reward their efforts in staying up to date with their colorectal cancer screenings.

10. Check in with them after they get screened about their results.

Don’t leave it up to your loved one to let you know how they’re doing after the screening – both physically and emotionally. Ask them about the testing and let them know you will be there to offer support when they get their results. Find out what they need to do next or when they are next due for re-screening.

Be patient with your loved one’s effort to get screened for colorectal cancer. If they aren't receptive at first, try again with a different approach. Try not to resort to nagging or scolding, which are unlikely to convince them to get screened.

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