Testing is Critical:
Colon cancer is America’s #2 cancer killer. It’s also one of the most preventive and curable cancers, but only in the early stages. That’s why screenings are so critical. Most people age 50 and older should have a colonoscopy every 10 years, with additional check-ups if warning signs or symptoms occur. African Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a younger age than other ethnic groups, so screening as early as 40 years old is recommended.
Risk Factors & Symptoms:
What to Look For
Colorectal cancer is most common in men and woman age 50 and older, although it can strike at younger ages. While these symptoms do not always indicate the presence of colorectal cancer, any one of them should prompt a visit with your physician, along with a check-up.
- Change in stool
- Rectal bleeding, or blood in/on the stool
- Dark/black stool
- Persistent diarrhea
- Weight loss associated with gastrointestinal symptoms
- Family history of colon cancer
- Abnormal imaging studies, CT scan or barium enema
- Previous history of colon polyps or cancer
- Surveillance for inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic, unexplained abdominal pain
The American College of Gastroenterology considers colonoscopy the “gold standard” for colorectal screening. Why? Colonoscopies allow physicians to look directly at the entire colon, and to identify suspicious growths. A Colonoscopy is also the only test that allows a biopsy or removal of a polyp at the same time it is first identified.
This procedure uses a colonoscope, a flexible tube-like device outfitted with a miniaturized camera, to take pictures of the colon. The colonoscope allows a physician to obtain a small tissue sample, apply medications or heat treatment directly to the lining of the colon, or remove polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths in the lining of the colon, which can become cancerous. Removing polyps is an important way to prevent colon cancer. A colonoscopy takes from 10 to 30 minutes. During the procedure, patients may feel some discomfort but rarely any pain. Patients receive medication intravenously to make them relaxed and drowsy. The span of service in the Endoscopy Center may last two to three hours, from admission through discharge.
Colonoscopy is a safe, simple and effective way to check for cancer, and to treat suspicious colon polyps. Screening is important because in the early stages of many colorectal diseases symptoms are not present. Cancer growth can go on for years and even decades within the colon, and is far more difficult to treat when symptoms do become present. The American Cancer Society recommends all men and women age 50 and older have a screening colonoscopy to check for signs of colon cancer, even if no symptoms are present. People with a family history of colon cancer should begin screening at an earlier age.
While the exact causes of colorectal cancer are not yet known, you are at a higher risk of Colorectal Cancer if:
- You are Over 50 years old
- You Eat a Diet high in animal fat
- You smoke or drink alcohol regularly
- You have a family history of colorectal cancer
- You are overweight
- Identify and Remove any potentially cancerous polyps within the lower intestines
- Detect inflammation, diseases and conditions of the colon
- Find the cause of bleeding or pain from the lower gastrointestinal tract
- Assess changes in bowel habits, such as chronic diarrhea
- Reassure your personal intestinal health or begin critical treatment