There are a number of screening tests available for colon cancer, but the two top choices and the most commonly used are colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.
If you’re due for your first colon cancer screening soon, here is what you need to know about each of the two procedures, particularly what they involve, to help you decide which one is more suitable for you.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure used for examining the entire length of the large intestine (colon). During a colonoscopy, your GI specialist will insert a thin, flexible, lighted instrument (colonoscope) into your rectum to check for abnormalities and perform a biopsy.
Colonoscopy entails a day-before bowel cleansing preparation, whereby you need to consume clear liquids only and take a laxative preparation to remove all waste from your large intestine.
In addition to being used as a screening tool, a colonoscopy also has a therapeutic application: it is used for treating some early-stage colon cancers and most polyps.
Even with the development of other screening methods, which many experts have touted to be equally effective and less invasive, colonoscopy remains the gold standard for the detection of colon cancer. Studies show that colonoscopies yield an accuracy rate of roughly 94 percent.
What Is a Sigmoidoscopy?
Sigmoidoscopy also referred to as flexible sigmoidoscopy, involves the use of a specialized endoscope— which, like a colonoscope, is also a thin, flexible, lighted tube—to visualize the large
Like a colonoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy requires bowel cleansing the day before your exam, but it involves less radiation. Usually, patients receive no sedation, so they can drive home unaccompanied.
A sigmoidoscopy is not usually the preferred screening test for colon cancer. However, it is helpful in uncovering reasons for rectal bleeding (such as hemorrhoids and inflammation from ulcerative colitis). If your GI specialist detects abnormal tissue or polyps during a sigmoidoscopy, they will likely recommend a colonoscopy to examine the rest of your colon.
Your GI specialist will discuss with you your risk factors and symptoms as well as ask you for your preference and treatment goals. Based on these, your GI specialist will recommend the test that is most suitable for you.
Colon Cancer Screening in Westlake and Brooklyn, OH
At North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Centers, our board-certified GI specialists perform a wide range of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic procedures, including routine cancer screening exams, as part of our commitment to delivering comprehensive care to the residents of Westlake and Brooklyn.