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Prevent Colon Cancer: Screening


The best way to prevent colon cancer is to have regular cancer screenings. Although there are many methods of colon screenings, the gold standard is the colonoscopy. Other screening methods include:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy—a lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted into the rectum to examine the lower colon.
  • Virtual colonoscopy—computerized tomography (CT) images create a detailed image of the inside of the colon.
  • Fecal occult blood test—a simple stool sample may detect blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer.
  • Double contrast barium enema—uses X-rays to evaluate the colon and rectum.

Why aren’t all colon screenings created equal? The colonoscopy is the preferred method for colon cancer testing because the test involves the insertion of a lighted colonoscope into the entire length of the colon to search for abnormalities throughout the large intestine. Any suspicious polyp can be removed during the test, making the colonoscopy a method of prevention, diagnosis and treatment. It’s like three tests in one! Another reason why this test is superior is because with other tests, if results come back positive or unclear, you will be asked to have a colonoscopy. It saves a step to just have the colonoscopy first.

Most adults who are at average risk should have a baseline colonoscopy at the age of 50. Almost 137,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and over 50,000 will die from the disease. Young onset colon cancer is also on the rise, so it is also important to make regular visits to your primary care physician for annual physicals, and know the warning signs of colorectal cancer so you are aware of colon cancer symptoms.

If you have a family history of colon cancer, are of African American descent or have other risk factors of colon cancer, you should have a baseline colonoscopy before the age of 50. Your primary care physician should be able to advise you about when to have your first colonoscopy.

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posted on February 2, 2015 in news