Colonoscopy as the Gold Standard for Colon Screening



Colon cancer is one of the most common and most treatable cancers. In 2013, it is expected that colon cancer will claim the lives of over 50,000 Americans. Since the risk of developing colon cancer is 1 in 20, it is in your best interest to learn more about prevention and early detection for colon cancer. If you are over 50, you should ask your primary care physician about getting an initial screening. Individuals who are African American or who have a family history of colon cancer or exhibit other risk factors should seek early screening.

There are many different screening methods, but the colonoscopy remains the gold standard for colon cancer screening. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a gastroenterologist inserts a lighted probe into the rectum to look for lesions, polyps and abnormalities in the lining of the colon. One of the best advantages of a colonoscopy is that cancerous polyps can be removed during the procedure if they are discovered. If your colonoscopy is clear, you will not have to have another procedure for 10 years.

Still, as good as this sounds, there are people who will opt out of testing. Many are scared off by the anticipation of pain during the colonoscopy. Most people choose to be sedated, either conscious sedation or total sedation so you will not feed pain during the procedure. Other people dread the prep for colonoscopy and having to stay close to a bathroom all day. There is really no other way to make it more bearable or pleasant, but take heart that if you the preparation correctly the first time, you won’t have to do it again for another decade. Give your cleansing day your best effort because a thorough cleanse will allow your doctor to see even the flattest lesions on your intestine.

There are other methods of colon cancer screening besides the colonoscopy. A flexible sigmoidoscopy involves a flexible tube being inserted into the rectum, but not as far into the colon as a colonoscopy. This test has to be done every five years instead of every ten years. Another test is the double-contrast barium enema, which also has to be done every five years. A virtual colonoscopy has gotten a lot of attention these days, but recently Medicaid Services has refused to pay for the test. As with other testing, when insurance will not pay for the procedure many people will not choose to be tested.

A colonoscopy is the best screening method because it is the most comprehensive exam and allows for polyp removal during the procedure. It is estimated that between 60 to 90 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone over 50 chose to have a colonoscopy. That is 30,000 to 45,000 lives that could be saved! If you have never had a colonoscopy before, take a few moments to view some FAQs and find a treatment center near you.