How important is colon cancer screening?
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of deaths in males and females, so a screening can detect colorectal cancer early when it’s most curable. A colonoscopy is the gold standard for colorectal screening.
During the screening, when a physician encounters polyps or colon cancer, we remove the polyps and if a superficial polyp happens to be cancerous, we actually cure the patient right then and there. If there is a mass, we will biopsy pieces for further study. That patient may require further endoscopic or surgical removal of the mass.
People usually have no symptoms of colon cancer—no bleeding or change in bowel habits, no fever, chills or abdominal pain—yet they go for a colonoscopy screening based on their primary physician’s recommendation.
The world has two kinds of people: those who form precancerous polyps and people who don’t, and when we do colonoscopy screenings, we are trying to determine the patients who don’t form polyps and can be seen every 10 years, or every five years for those with precancerous polyps. Polyps are hereditary through your parents, so there is nothing one can do to prevent getting them.
Most people realize getting a colonoscopy is not bad, but it involves preparing for it. One must consume clear liquids 24 hours before the procedure and take strong laxatives for the colon to be completely clean so that we can see any polyps or cancer.
There are other stool screening tests people can use if they wish not to go through a colonoscopy, including a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or a Cologuard test (through the mail) that tests for DNA mutations. If the Cologuard test is positive then a colonoscopy must be done in a timely manner.
Colorectal screenings are usually done between ages 50 and 75. However, those who have a family history of colon cancer, or a first-degree relative, parent, children or siblings diagnosed under age 50, should be tested sooner.
Screenings can continue up to age 85 for people in good shape with multiple people in the family or first-degree relatives who have had colon cancer. When you have a family history with multiple people with colon cancer, there is a 9 percent chance that you can get colon cancer from 70 to 80 years of age, so we would like to continue the screenings.
I’ve been in this field since 1986. I got into it because I wanted to make an impact on colon cancer and save lives.
For more Information
Advanced Gastroenterology & Surgery Associates
8100 County Road 44, Leesburg 34788