Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives
Approximately 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed every year in the United States and nearly 50,000 people die from the disease. It has been estimated that increased awareness and screening would save at least 30,000 lives each year. Colorectal cancer is highly preventable and can be detected by testing even before there are symptoms. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy encourages everyone over 50, or those under 50 with a family history or other risk factors, to be screened for colorectal cancer.
We provide comprehensive evaluation and management for cancer screening patients
Colon Cancer Screening FAQs
Is colon cancer screening necessary?
Colon cancer screening is extremely important because, when found early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. Also, colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screening because your doctor has the ability to find precancerous polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer.
What age should you start colon cancer screening?
Beginning at age 50, men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should be screened. If you are at an increased or high risk of colorectal cancer, you might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 50 and/or be screened more often. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
What are the different colon cancer screening options?
Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer. Other tests include stool DNA tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. Based on your personal health history, you doctor can recommend the right test for you.
What is the best test for colon cancer?
Based on your age and risk factors, your doctor can determine when you should test and which test in the best option for you. Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer, but are also frequently used to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease.
What are the best ways to minimize chances of getting colon cancer?
Diet and lifestyle choices you can make to reduce the chances of getting colon cancer include:
- Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Eat less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats)
- Get regular exercise
- Watch your weight
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
- GET SCREENED. The best way to minimize your chances of colon cancer is regular screening.
What are the early signs of colon cancer?
The bad news is there usually are NO signs. That is why colon cancer is often labeled the “silent” killer. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Changes in your bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Abdominal bloating, cramps or discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weakness or fatigue
Is a Cologuard test a screening option for me?
Cologuard is appropriate for average risk patients, age 50 years and older with no symptoms, or conditions including family or personal history of colon cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel conditions. Patients should NOT use Cologuard if they have diarrhea, blood in their urine or stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding, menstruation, or bleeding cuts or wounds on their hands.
Ask your doctor about the best colorectal cancer screening option for you.
How often are you supposed to get a colonoscopy?
Starting at age 50, if you are average risk and the average time between screenings is 10 years. It’s important that you talk to your doctor about your risk factors to determine the right frequency for you.
What can I expect from a colonoscopy?
During a colonoscopy, you will receive sedation to make you comfortable. The doctor will insert a colonoscope, which contains a tiny video camera at its tip. The camera sends images to an external monitor so your doctor can see the inside of your colon.
The procedure itself usually takes less than 45 minutes, although you should plan on two to three hours for waiting, preparation and recovery
After the exam, you may feel a little bloated or pass gas for a few hours and you may also notice a small amount of blood with your first bowel movement. Call your doctor if you continue to pass blood, have persistent abdominal pain, or run a fever
Six Questions That Could Save Your Life
(or the Life of Someone You Love)
Test your knowledge about colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. If you think the answer is true or mostly true, answer true. If you think the answer is false or mostly false, answer false.
1. Colorectal cancer is predominantly a "man's disease," affecting many more men than women annually.
FALSE. Colorectal cancer affects an equal number of men and women. Many women, however, think of CRC as a disease only affecting men and might be unaware of important information about screening and preventing colorectal cancer that could save their lives, says the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
2. Only women over the age of 50 who are currently experiencing some symptoms or problems should be screened for colorectal cancer or polyps.
FALSE. Beginning at age 50, all men and women should be screened for colorectal cancer EVEN IF THEY ARE EXPERIENCING NO PROBLEMS OR SYMPTOMS.
3. A colonoscopy screening exam typically requires an overnight stay in a hospital.
FALSE. A colonoscopy screening exam is almost always done on an outpatient basis. A mild sedative is usually given before the procedure and then a flexible, slender tube is inserted into the rectum to look inside the colon. The test is safe and the procedure itself typically takes less than 45 minutes.
4. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
TRUE. After lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Annually, approximately 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in the United States and 50,000 people die from the disease. It has been estimated that increased awareness and screening would save at least 30,000 lives each year.
5. Tests used for screening for colon cancer include digital rectal exam, stool blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.
TRUE. These tests are used to screen for colorectal cancer even before there are symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider about which test is best for you.
Current recommended screening options* include:
Beginning at age 50, men and women should have:
- An annual occult blood test on spontaneously passed stool (at a minimum);
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years; or,
- A complete colonoscopy every 10 years.
Important: You may need to begin periodic screening colonoscopy earlier than age 50 years if you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or long-standing ulcerative colitis.
6. Colon cancer is often preventable.
TRUE. Colorectal cancer is highly preventable. Colonoscopy may detect polyps (small growths on the lining of the colon). Removal of these polyps (by biopsy or snare polypectomy) results in a major reduction in the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer in the future.
For Your Information
The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy encourages you to talk with your healthcare provider about colon cancer screening and encourages everyone over the age of 50 to undergo the appropriate screening. If your primary healthcare provider has recommended a colonoscopy, you can find a physician with specialized training in these GI endoscopic procedures by using the free Find a Doctor tool on ASGE's Web site at www.screen4coloncancer.org. For more information about colon cancer screening, visit www.screen4coloncancer.org.
Download this article in PDF format
Don't have Adobe Reader? Download it here