Colon cancer is among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It starts when healthy cells in the large intestine (colon) develop harmful changes in their DNA. Over time, these changes can damage the DNA, rendering the cells unable to properly grow and divide. Damage to their DNA essentially causes the cells to grow rapidly, accumulate, and gradually form polyps or tumors, some of which can turn cancerous.
A colon cancer screening detects polyps and other abnormalities in the colon and is instrumental in addressing cancer in its early stages—when it’s highly treatable.
Nonetheless, even with the remarkable benefits of colon cancer screenings, the idea of the entire process can make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re still in doubt about whether colon cancer screening is right for you, one thing you have to greatly consider is that it is a potentially lifesaving decision, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that encompasses two major types of conditions that cause chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract—Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The rate of colon cancer in patients with IBD is nearly twice as high compared to that of the general population.
If you have either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, your gastroenterologist will recommend that you get screened for colon cancer every one to two years.
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a rare genetic condition that causes polyp overgrowth. A patient with FAP should get an annual colon cancer screening starting at age 10 until they turn 40. If there are no polyps detected during the initial screening, the patient must be screened once every three to five years.
Lynch syndrome, or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is another inherited disease that accounts for roughly five percent of colon cancer cases. Since colon cancer develops faster for this patient group, doctors recommend a colonoscopy every one to two years, starting at 20-25 years old. Colonoscopy is a type of colon cancer screening that involves the insertion of a flexible, fiber-optic camera into the rectum. Once the patient turns 40, an annual colonoscopy is recommended.
Family History of Colon Cancer
If you have a family history of colon cancer, your doctor may recommend earlier screenings, starting at age 40 or 10 years before the age of your immediate family member who was diagnosed with the disease.
Depending on your medical history, your doctor may choose colonoscopy over other screening methods. The frequency of the tests typically hinges on your overall health.
Personal History of Colon Cancer
In some cases, colon cancer can recur among patients who have already finished treatment. According to a study, up to 40 percent of patients who undergo primary resection to remove cancerous polyps end up suffering a recurrence.
After you undergo surgery for colon cancer, your doctor may still recommend screening tests. This is to ensure that your digestive system remains in good health. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons recommends a post-treatment colonoscopy every three years to check for new growths.
Colon Cancer Screening in Brooklyn And Westlake, OH
At North Shore Gastroenterology, we offer an extensive range of advanced diagnostic procedures for gastrointestinal disorders—such as colonoscopy and other colon cancer screening methods— to help our patients take control of their digestive health. Our team takes pride in its expertise and compassionate approach, which have enabled us to deliver the best patient outcomes.