Colon cancer screening is proving to be one of the most effective methods to preventing colon cancer. Doctors can use different methods to check for possible signs of colon cancer – in this case, evidence of cancer and, ideally, before it has a chance to develop into cancerous tumors.
If you are leading a healthy lifestyle, regular colon cancer screening is an important thing to incorporate into your routine. While screening cannot guarantee that colon cancer won’t develop, it significantly reduces poor outcomes and increases the chances of successful treatment.
How is Colon Cancer Screening Performed?
Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate screening method for you. Here are some common methods used to screen for colon cancer:
This is the gold standard of colon cancer screening methods. A thin, flexible tube with a camera visualizes the entire colon. It not only detects abnormal growths (called polyps) but allows for their immediate removal, too. It is performed with a sedative to ensure patient comfort, and most patients only need to take a day off work to get the procedure done and rest for the remainder of the day.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
This is a more discreet way to take a sample to check for invisible blood in the stool, which may indicate bleeding from polyps or tumors. However, if the test is positive, further diagnostic evaluation is needed, and the patient may need to undergo a colonoscopy.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is somewhat like a shorter colonoscopy but focuses on the rectum and lower part of the colon. A flexible tube with a camera (sigmoidoscope) is used to visualize a small part of the colon and rectum. The procedure can be performed without sedation.
Why is Colon Cancer Screening Effective?
Colon cancer screening helps prevent colon cancer is through the following:
Early Detection of Precancerous Polyps
Many colon cancers develop from precancerous polyps. Colon cancer screening shows these growths anywhere in the colon and provides the opportunity for early identification, before the cancer progresses to an advanced stage.
Removal of Precancerous Polyps
During a colonoscopy, if precancerous polyps or abnormal growths are found, they can be removed. Most colon cancers start out as polyps. Therefore, the removal of the tissue eliminates the potential for these growths to progress into early-stage or advanced-stage cancer.
Detection of Early-Stage Cancer
If a cancerous tumor is detected at an early stage, the chance of a successful treatment is significantly higher. Early-stage cancers are often localized, which makes them easier to treat by removal.
Colon cancer screening also raises awareness about the importance of early detection and prevention. This increased awareness encourages other individuals to seek medical advice and schedule a screening, which contributes to the overall health of the community. It also encourages people to make healthier lifestyle decisions, like maintaining a healthy weight and choosing the right foods to eat.
Risk Assessment and Lifestyle Management
For individuals with certain risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer, or a history that predisposes them to colon cancer, they can receive advice on screenings and lifestyle changes as a prevention strategy.
Since patients with colon cancer are getting younger, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has updated its guidelines to start screening five years earlier than its original recommendation – at the age of 45, instead of 50.
Colon Cancer Screening in Westlake and Brooklyn, OH
At North Shore Gastroenterology, our gastroenterology specialists routinely screen for and treat colon cancer, as well as a wide variety of other health problems related to the GI tract. If you are concerned about your colon cancer risk or would like to schedule a screening, we are more than happy to help. Schedule an appointment by calling us today at (440) 808-1212. You can also use our online request form to schedule your visit.