Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer screening dramatically reduces your risk of dying from the disease. More than 80 percent of colorectal cancers are preventable through recommended screening and lifestyle changes. Regular screening can save your life.
Screening generally involves a colonoscopy, although there are other effective and non-invasive methods available. Your doctor can answer your questions about colonoscopy or other screening methods.
When to Screen
In general, men and women should have their first screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. You may need earlier screening if you have worrisome symptoms, such as:
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
You may also need to be screened earlier if you have:
- A family history or known hereditary colon cancer
- A personal history of colon cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
It’s important to be aware of your risk factors. Be sure to talk with your doctor to determine when screening should begin and the appropriate interval between tests.
A colonoscopy is an exam of the entire colon with a colonoscope – a slender, flexible tube with a camera on the end. Patients are given medication to help prevent pain and discomfort during the procedure. This medication allows you to relax and often causes you to forget the procedure.
If your doctor finds any small growths (polyps), they are removed. This is important, because polyps can eventually become cancerous. The test also detects large polyps or tumors. If these are found, your doctor can take biopsies - samples of tissue to be tested for cancer.
Talk with your primary care doctor about colon cancer screening that’s appropriate for you. Ask your doctor for a referral to schedule your colonoscopy.