Posted on March 16th, 2017 by Editor
Screening is crucial for the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society currently recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer begin screening for colorectal cancer at the age of 50. Screening may need to begin at a much earlier age for people with a personal or family history of adenomatous polyps, FAP, HNPCC, colorectal cancer, or chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Learn more here
A colonoscopy can diagnose and prevent colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Colonoscopy can detect early-stage colorectal cancer, when it is easiest to treat. Doctors can also use it to remove colon polyps. Colon polyps are growths that can develop into cancer. Colonoscopy is also accurate, minimally invasive, and covered by most insurance plans.
The gold standard for colorectal screening is a conventional colonoscopy. It involves inserting a colonoscope through the rectum into the colon. This device sends pictures of the colon to a video monitor. The other testing option is a virtual colonoscopy. This is a CT (computed tomography) scan of your colon. It uses X-rays and a computer system to produce very detailed images. Some imaging centers use MRI instead of CT. The doctor still needs to insert air into your colon to help see the area, but it is much less invasive than a regular colonoscopy. Talk with your doctor about which test is best for you.
It’s common to feel a sense of dread or embarrassment about having a conventional colonoscopy, but many people find the test to be much easier than they expected. The test is done in a private room, and your care team will make every effort to ensure your comfort and privacy. If your feelings are getting in the way of having this important screening test, talk with your doctor. A less invasive virtual colonoscopy may be an option for you.
Your doctor will give you pain and sedative medicine to keep you relaxed and pain-free. You will likely sleep right through the procedure. If you are awake, it’s not unusual to feel mild pressure and brief cramping during the test. Tell your doctor if you are anxious or uncomfortable, so your care team can adjust your medications.
A colonoscopy takes less than 30 minutes, and most people return to normal activities the day after the test. You will need to allow some extra time at the facility to check in before and to recover after the procedure. You will also need to be free the day before to cleanse your colon. Cleansing may include a combination of enemas, laxatives, and not eating solid foods.
Doctors can usually remove small polyps during a conventional colonoscopy. Your doctor can also take a tissue sample (biopsy) of large polyps or other abnormal looking areas. The biopsy is sent to a lab and tested for cancer. If your doctor sees a polyp or abnormal looking tissue on a virtual colonoscopy, you will need to have a conventional colonoscopy to remove and test the polyp for cancer.
There are other options for colorectal cancer screening. The most important colorectal cancer screening method is the one that works for you. Talk to your doctor about your risks and options.
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