Colon Cancer Screening
It’s unfortunate, but true. More than 1,800 Oregonians are diagnosed with colon cancer each year.
As the second-leading cause of cancer deaths – colon cancer doesn’t discriminate – affecting men and women equally.
The good news is when diagnosed early through screening, colon cancer is one of the most treatable of all cancers.
Screening can achieve more than just the benefits of starting treatment early; it can actually prevent the development of a cancer.
This is because colon cancers are recognized as starting from small polyps. Polyps are benign little lumps that can be removed without removing any normal part of a colon; however, if left in place they can change into cancer over some years.
The current best screening method for identifying polyps is through a colonoscopy, which employs a scope to obtain internal views of the colon to search for polyps and, if found, remove them before they can become cancers.
Because there are often no symptoms when colon cancer first develops, screening is important for early identification.
Having a colonoscopy is recommended for anyone age 50 or older. It is generally painless and fast; however, the preparation for the procedure is often what concerns people the most. The preparation, while definitely not fun, is critical because the colon needs to be thoroughly cleaned, so it can be clearly visualized.
The good news is that, if there are no major concerns identified, a colonoscopy does not need to be repeated for five to 10 years.
If there are polyps, a colonoscopy may be scheduled more frequently based upon your physician’s recommendation until no further polyps are being formed.
Other screening tests for colon cancer and precancerous polyps include a stool test for blood. This is called a fecal occult blood test, and can also detect many colon cancers, but is unlikely to detect a polyp before it becomes a cancer.
A barium enema includes an X-ray of the colon and rectum that may find polyps or an early cancer but is not considered as sensitive as colonoscopy and, if polyps are found, requires a follow up colonoscopy to remove them.
Age is the single most important risk factor when it comes to colon cancer. Age increases the likelihood of polyps forming, which is why a colonoscopy is recommended beginning at age 50. Most cases of colon cancer occur in patients of this age group. Other risk factors include a high-fat diet, lack of physical activity and excessive use of alcohol.
If you are age 50 and above or have a family history, we encourage you to talk to your health care provider or call Centennial Gastroenterology to set up an appointment to get screened. It is a gift you can give to yourself and your family. And, if you know someone who is at risk, urge him or her to get screened.
Centennial Gastroenterology Associates
2510 NW Edenbower Blvd Suite 112, Roseburg, OR 97471