Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. It can be attributed to many things: hereditary causes, increasing rates of obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, the Western diet, and high sugar intake. The truth is, colon cancer cannot be blamed on a single factor, and despite an individual’s best efforts, they can still end up being diagnosed with it.
You cannot always control cancer, but you can control how soon it can be caught, which is through early screening. While the prospect of cancer screening may seem daunting, understanding the importance of colon cancer screening can make a significant difference in treatment success and quality of life.
Let’s explore colon cancer screening, what screening methods are available, and the benefits of getting screened for the disease.
The Impact of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer arises from abnormal growths called polyps in the large intestine or rectum. If left undetected and untreated, some polyps may develop into cancer over time. Early-stage colon cancer often presents no symptoms, making regular screening crucial for early detection and prevention.
Why Early Detection Matters
Detecting colon cancer at an early stage is vital for several reasons:
#1 Improved Treatment Outcomes
Early-stage colon cancer is highly treatable and has a higher likelihood of successful treatment compared to advanced-stage cancer.
#2 Reduced Mortality Rates
Early detection can lead to a significant reduction in mortality rates associated with colon cancer. In randomized control trials, a fecal occult blood test has shown a long-term reduction in mortality rates – 32% for the annual screening and 18% for the biennial screening.
#3 Minimized Need for Aggressive Treatments
Early detection may allow for less invasive treatment options, sparing patients from more aggressive therapies. Stage 1 colorectal cancer can be treated effectively without chemotherapy or radiation – the removal of cancerous tissue is considered the primary treatment for it.
#4 Preventing Cancer Progression
Removing precancerous polyps during screening can prevent them from developing into cancer. In both a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy, the doctor can remove abnormal growths that may be precancerous.
#5 Quality of Life
Early detection can lead to better preservation of bowel function and overall quality of life for patients. Aggressive treatments are usually recommended for colon cancer that has spread into the lymph nodes and other organs, which can be time-consuming and intense on the body.
What are the Methods Used to Screen for Colon Cancer?
Several effective screening methods are available to detect colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. The recommended screening tests include:
#1 Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
FIT is a non-invasive test that detects hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of colon cancer or polyps. This type of test, while less invasive, easier to do, and more discreet, needs to be done more often.
#2 Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
This procedure is similar to a colonoscopy but examines only the lower part of the colon. While it provides valuable information, it does not evaluate the entire colon. If abnormal results are found or if results are inconclusive, you may need to get a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening. During this procedure, a flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the colon to examine the entire colon and rectum for any abnormalities or polyps. In addition, the doctor can remove pre-cancerous polyps during the procedure and get tissue samples for a biopsy. A colonoscopy should be done every 10 years if no issues are found and the patient has no history of colon cancer.
Colon cancer screening guidelines vary. As a general guideline, individuals with an average risk for colon cancer should begin screening at age 45. However, the rate of colon cancer diagnosis in individuals younger than 40 is increasing.
Discuss with your doctor when you should start colon cancer screening, given your risk factors. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or certain risk factors may need to start screening earlier or undergo more frequent screenings.
The Importance of Regular Screening
Regular and timely colon cancer screening is crucial for maintaining good health, especially as the risk of colon cancer increases with age. Adhering to recommended screening guidelines can significantly improve the chances of early detection and successful treatment.
Remember, early detection saves lives, and colon cancer screening is a proactive step toward safeguarding your well-being.
Colon Cancer Screening in Brooklyn and Westlake, OH
The gastroenterology specialists at North Shore Gastroenterology offer stool-based and visual exams for colon cancer screening. If you are concerned about colon cancer or colon cancer screening, our GI specialists are very helpful and can educate you about your options and empower you to make important health decisions.
To schedule a consultation with us, call our office today at (440) 808-1212 or use our online request form.