Know your three options for colorectal screening
As with all types of cancer early detection of colon cancer is the key to a much higher survival rate. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 140250 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2018 with 50630 estimated deaths. If colorectal cancer is detected early through screening the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent.
Colorectal screening methods
You have more than one option when it comes to colorectal screening for colon cancer. Which type you choose will depend on your overall health family history personal risk factors and age. In some instances your doctor may prescribe more than one type of screening.
Here are the three main options for colorectal cancer screening:
A colonoscopy involves a physician inserting a thin flexible tube called a scope into your colon. The tube is lighted and has a small camera on the end. This scope enables the doctor to examine the entire length of your colon and rectum. As the doctor checks your colon he or she looks for any changes that could indicate precancerous conditions. During the procedure your doctor can take a sample or biopsy of any suspicious tissue or polyps. Polyps are also usually removed. You will most likely be sedated during the colonoscopy so that you won't experience any discomfort.
Colonoscopies are repeated every three to 10 years depending on if polyps are present. If there are polyps you will need to repeat the procedure sooner.
Preparation for a colonoscopy is often considered more difficult than the procedure itself. Generally you will need to consume a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure. This preparation will also include taking strong laxatives intended to empty your bowel so that the doctor can have a good look at your colon.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy but more limited in scope. This test involves the doctor inserting a thin tube into the sigmoid colon which is the last portion of the large colon. The specialist will examine this part of the colon and identify any changes or suspicious areas. He or she will also take a biopsy if polyps are found. The polyps may be removed during the procedure or you may have to undergo a colonoscopy later at which time the polyps will be removed.
If no polyps are found this test will be repeated every five to 10 years. A yearly stool test is also performed. Preparation of your bowels may be required but the prep isn't as extensive as before a colonoscopy. Generally you don't need sedation for this procedure.
Stool (feces) sample tests check for signs of cancer in the stool. Such tests are less invasive than other procedures and can generally be performed in the privacy of your home by you. You send the stool sample to a laboratory for testing. These tests don't require any preparation. They must be done more frequently than other types of tests - usually every one to three years.
If results are found to be abnormal the stool sample will require follow-up with a colonoscopy.
There are two main types of stool tests. The DNA stool test involves screening your stool for abnormal DNA markers that can indicate cancerous changes. One example of such a test is Cologuard.
The stool blood test checks your feces for blood as cancer can cause bleeding which ends up in the stool. This test is not conclusive however as blood in the stool can also be an indication of you having taken NSAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen or blood thinners. Hemorrhoids can also lead to blood in the stool. This test is usually repeated yearly.
The topic of colon cancer is a serious matter that can cause some anxiety. It helps to know that effective tests exist that can detect colon problems early. Give yourself precious peace of mind by talking to your doctor and see if it is time to schedule your colorectal screening.Learn more