Colon Cancer Screening: Nothing to Be Nervous About!
Worried about colon cancer? You’re not alone. Around 140,000 men and women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease every year and, tragically, 50,000 people die from it. Colon cancer screenings should be a part of your annual medical exam. The adage is true: early detection is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease – or worse.
Who Needs Colon Cancer Screening?
According to American Cancer Society, all men and women over the age of 50 should incorporate colon cancer screening into their annual healthcare routine. Most general practitioners will remind you when it’s “that time,” but if yours doesn’t mention it, it’s best to bring it up around the age of fifty.
That said, if you’re at high risk for colon cancer, it’s a good idea to begin those screenings a bit sooner. High-risk men and women include those with Crohn’s or other bowel diseases, a history of cancer or a family history of colon cancer.
Whether you fall into a category of average or high risk, you’ll have options for colon cancer screening. Men and women who are preparing for their first screening or those who are veterans of the process may be interested to learn that not every colon cancer screening is the same.
Colon Cancer Screening at Home
Yes! When many people think of colon cancer screenings, they visualize a very invasive process. In fact, that’s not the case anymore. Colonoscopies and the infamous gloved finger are certainly effective ways to detect cancer. But they’re not the only way.
There are now products available to men and women who wish for a bit more privacy. Kits like Cologuard are available by prescription and are performed at home. You’ll simply send a stool sample, via UPS, to a laboratory and your results are returned to you.
These tests have been approved by the FDA, and work by examining the DNA from your stool sample. During that evaluation, precancerous, cancerous and abnormal cells can be detected.
Not convinced? The kit is actually recommended by the American Cancer Society. The non-invasive is not only effective, but it’s accessible to more people. And, as you can imagine, that means more cases of early detection.
If you’re not keen on the idea of sending a stool sample via UPS, you still have more traditional options. Your doctor can discuss which is the best for you.
The most common test is a colonoscopy. This is the insertion of a small, lighted tube into the rectum. A tiny camera is used to inspect the colon and rectum for polyps and cancerous growths.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is another option which is performed in the doctor’s office. The biggest difference between this and a colonoscopy is that polyps can actually be removed during the test.
A double-contrast barium enema is a color test. It’s simple to perform; liquid enters the rectum and is then caused to spread. As it spreads, an x-ray is used to examine the area for polyps. Keep in mind that if you opt for this test, you might need a colonoscopy later anyway. Colonoscopies are ordered if cysts are found.
CT colonography is a test that’s performed every five years on most patients. It’s similar to a double-contrast barium enema, except that a CT scanner is used to examine the colon and rectum. Again, if anything is found then a colonoscopy will be ordered.
Why Get Tested for Colon Cancer?
Early detection is crucial. Studies have found that when colon cancer is found early, patients have a 90% survival rate over five years. When you wait to be screened, that survival rate drops significantly.
Speak to your doctor about which colon screening is best for you. He or she will tell you if you’re a good candidate for a non-invasive test like Cologuard or if you’d be better served by an in-office exam. Whatever you decide, be proactive! A screening today could mean an improved outlook for your health.