Early Colorectal Cancer Screenings Make a Difference
If you’ve ever hesitated to schedule a colonoscopy, you’re not alone. We can all undoubtedly come up with dozens of things we’d rather do, but it’s best to schedule the screening instead of putting it off – it could save your life.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer affecting both men and women in the United States (excluding skin cancer). Colorectal cancer screenings are a vital piece of prevention, as the screenings can catch abnormalities in your stool and potentially-cancerous polyps. Early cancer detection means the cancer is easier to treat – and offers a higher likelihood of survival.
“Screenings are important because you can catch any polyps early, preventing them from becoming cancer,” says Chike Anusionwu, MD, Gastroenterologist at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you should get screened for colorectal cancer.”
Concerning symptoms include a consistent change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, stomach discomfort and weight loss.
When Should Colon Cancer Screenings Begin?
According to the latest guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, you should undergo a colorectal cancer screening if you’re between the ages of 45 to 75 years old. Experts recommend colonoscopies every ten years; however, patients with a family history of colorectal cancer will undergo this screening more frequently. If you or a loved one has a family history of colon cancer, schedule an appointment with your physician to determine when you should begin screenings.
“Historically, we diagnose colorectal cancer in patients 50 and older,” says Dr. Anusionwu. “Now about 10% of newly diagnosed colorectal cancers are occurring in people younger than 50 years old.”
What are the Colorectal Cancer Screening Options?
If you’re not sure where to start or if you should get a screening, the St. Elizabeth Gastroenterology team offers answers. Our skilled gastroenterologists will evaluate your risk factors, review your family history and discuss all of your screening options to help you decide what is best for you.
Colorectal cancer screening options include:
· Colonoscopy: Regarded as the “gold standard” of colorectal cancer screenings, patients undergo anesthesia so the doctor can perform a scope. The scope can remove polys – the most common precancerous indicator – and identify any areas of concern in the rectum and colon.
· Flexible sigmoidoscopy: During this screening, your doctor inserts a small flexible tube with a light into your rectum to check for polyps and signs of cancer. This screening can be done every five to ten years and is an in-office procedure.
· Stool tests: St. Elizabeth recommends stool tests for patients who might not need a colonoscopy or are in-between other screenings. The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) are at-home tests used to obtain a small stool sample. These tests are done once a year to detect any blood in the stool. A stool DNA test, such as Cologuard, is used to identify abnormal DNA mutations and blood in the stool sample. This noninvasive test is for those with average risk and is used every three years unless your test results indicate necessary follow up testing.
· Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography): St. Elizabeth offers virtual colonoscopy as an option for low-risk patients. While the bowel prep is the same, the virtual colonoscopy requires no scope. Instead, our radiology team uses a CT scan to create a cross-section of images to provide a detailed look inside the colon and rectum.
If you have a screening that shows an abnormal result – such as identifying a polyp on a CT colonography – our team will recommend a colonoscopy for follow up testing.
What are the Risk Factors for Colon Cancer?
A risk factor can increase your risk of getting cancer. Risk factors for colon cancer include:
· A family history of colon cancer
· Having an inherited syndrome such as Lynch syndrome
· Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Chron’s disease
· Lifestyle factors such as a poor diet and lack of exercise
· Being overweight or obese
· Smoking and alcohol use
· Having type 2 diabetes
· Age, race and ethnic background
Schedule your Colon Screening
Call (859) 331-6466 to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists today. We encourage patients to self-refer – no preauthorization is needed.
St. Elizabeth has six convenient gastroenterology locations: Crestview Hills, Edgewood, Florence, Ft. Thomas, Grant, Williamstown and Dearborn.
Our new Endoscopy Center in Florence joins the Crestview Hills Endoscopy Center. Colonoscopy appointments can be made at by calling (859) 331-6466.