March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women – about 50,000 people in the U.S. die from colon cancer annually. Fortunately, the disease is often treatable and, when identified early, the outlook for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer can be very good.
You may have read, heard or seen on television that the FDA has approved three types of home-based screening tests for colon cancer. These uncover abnormal deviations in the feces, like blood or DNA markers for colon cancer. We know the thought of a colonoscopy is not always a pleasant one. While the comparative ease of these FDA approved home-based tests can make them seem like a good replacement, we think you should know that the colonoscopy continues to be the best option for the detection and prompt treatment of colon and rectal cancer. Our team of gastroenterology specialists at Ocean Family Gastroenterology have the experience to perform colonoscopies, detect illness and provide treatment if necessary.
If You Are 45 Or Older, Learn More About Why a Colonoscopy is the Gold Standard Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Why are colonoscopies considered the gold standard for screening?
Though some at-home test kits have received FDA approval, a colonoscopy is still the most effective way to detect colorectal cancer. Also, potentially cancerous or large growths can be removed with a colonoscopy which reduces the need for additional procedures. If you test positive with an at-home screening kit, you will still need to have a colonoscopy to verify the results and have any cancerous or precancerous polyps removed.
Why should I get a colon cancer screening?
Fast diagnosis and time are crucial to beating colorectal cancer. When cancer is detected in the colon or rectum before it has a chance to metastasize, the five-year chance of survival is about 90 percent. None of the other methods of screening for colorectal cancer have proved as accurate and / or as complete as the colonoscopy. Currently, the leading tools in the fight against colorectal cancer are colorectal cancer education and awareness and colonoscopies.
When is the best time to receive a colonoscopy exam?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that you schedule your initial colon cancer screening at age 45. Follow-up screening should occur once every ten years if you are of average risk. When people have a higher risk for colon or rectal cancer, your GI specialist might recommend a colonoscopy on a 3 to 5-year basis. The risk factors for colorectal cancer include:
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Digestive conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Personal history of multiple polyps, large polyps, or colorectal cancer
Your GI specialist may also suggest a colonoscopy exam if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of colon cancer:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Persistent constipation
- Bloody stools
How does a colonoscopy detect cancer?
Before your exam, your GI specialist will provide you with preparation guidelines to make certain your bowel is empty throughout the screening. These guidelines may involve:
- Fasting: You may be required to forgo solid food and consume solely translucent fluids for a day prior to your screening.
- Taking a laxative: Your GI physician could give you a laxative or “bowel prep” to clear your colon either the evening prior to or the morning of your test.
- Modifying medicines: If you take medication for heart problems, diabetes, or blood pressure, then you might need to change your dose or momentarily stop using them.
Throughout the colonoscopy, you will likely be given a mild type of sedative to help you remain calm and then directed to lie on your side. A thin, flexible tube with a video camera on the end will then be inserted through your rectum. This tube, called a colonoscope, is long enough to extend through your entire large intestine. Your colonoscopy doctor will evaluate the live images from the camera on a video monitor and search for any concerns. In the event a growth (polyp) or another abnormality is detected, special instruments can be fed through the scope to remove tissue samples for biopsy.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Schedule your colon cancer screening today.
For patients ages 45 and over, undergoing periodic colorectal cancer screenings is an important part of maintaining your health. Colonoscopies at Ocean Family Gastroenterology can help diagnose and prevent colon cancer, giving you peace of mind if you are cancer-free and an opportunity to fight the disease if the cancer is detected early. Join us as we recognize Colorectal Cancer Awareness by wearing blue on Friday, March 4, and with activities throughout the month of March.
Patients who are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of colon cancer mentioned above should call us at (732) 281-1590 to schedule a consult with a gastroenterologist.