Colorectal cancer is the fourth most diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The good news is that if colon cancer is found in its earliest stages, it has a 90% survival rate. Therefore, it is recommended that all adults begin having routine colon cancer screening starting at age 45 and continuing until age 75.
Who is at Risk for Colon Cancer?
Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. This is why screening tests begin at age 45. Other risk factors for colon cancer include
- Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Sedentary lifestyle
- A diet low in fruits, vegetables, or dietary fiber
- A diet of high-fat or high in processed meats
- Being overweight
- Alcohol consumption and tobacco use
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Symptoms of colon cancer can vary, so it is essential to see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms.
- Change in bowel habits that last longer than three weeks
- Rectal, bleeding, dark stools are blood in the stool
- Rectal pain or pressure
- Stomach pain or discomfort, including bloating and abdominal
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained fatigue or weakness
Colon Cancer Screening
Several different colorectal cancer screening strategies can be used to detect colon cancer and its earliest stages. Here are the most common colon cancer screening tools your doctor may recommend for you.
A colonoscopy is the best screening tool available for colorectal cancer. Before the procedure, you will receive instructions from your doctor on how to empty your bowels so your colon can be easily visualized. On the day of your colonoscopy procedure, you will receive medication to help you relax and fall asleep.
During a colonoscopy, your doctor can visualize your colon by inserting a long, thin, flexible tube through your rectum. The end of the tube has a tiny video camera and a light so your doctor can look for any pre-cancerous lesions within your colon. The great thing about a colonoscopy is that if your doctor finds anything concerning, they can take a biopsy to send to the lab for testing. Most people do not remember the test when they wake up, and there is not usually any pain or discomfort after the procedure.
After your colonoscopy, you will go home to rest and can return to regular activities within a few hours. If your doctor took any biopsies during your colonoscopy, you will get the results in a few weeks. Colonoscopies are routinely repeated every ten years unless your doctor recommends sooner screening.
Another screening tool available for colorectal cancer is a DNA stool test. Your doctor will have a kit sent to your home with all the supplies you need to send a sample of your stool to the lab. A DNA stool test checks for any altered DNA or presence of blood that could indicate colorectal cancer. Stool testing is performed once every three years.
Talk to your John’s Creek Primary Care doctor today for more information about colorectal cancer screening or prevention!