Colorectal cancer is a cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. It usually begins with a precancerous growth known as a polyp, which over time may turn into cancer. As the second leading cancer killer in the United States, colorectal cancer is a serious health issue that can be prevented with simple tests. That's why regular colon screenings are essential to identify and remove polyps.
The American Cancer Society recommends routine colon screenings for individuals over the age of 50 (African Americans over age 45), as well as those with high-risk factors. Risk factors include:
- You or a close relative had colorectal cancer
- You have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis
- You have a genetic syndrome
- Changes in stool consistency
- Changes in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal discomfort
- Losing weight for no known reason
A colonoscopy is the most common and easily performed colon screening. The GI doctor inserts a tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. This test is commonly performed for those over 50 years of age and/or with high-risk factors.
Stool tests are used to examine stool for any traces of blood/DNA. They are typically performed once a year.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is performed by a GI doctor who inserts a tube into the rectum. They are typically performed every five to 10 years.
A CT colonography is performed with x -rays and produces images of the entire colon. They are typically performed every five years.
Treatment ultimately depends on how far the cancer has spread and the size and location of the tumor(s). The most common treatments consist of surgery to remove the cancer, followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
If you are over age 50 or have other risk factors, contact us to schedule a colon screening. Regardless of your age, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult with a GI doctor.