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The #1 Way to Prevent Colon Cancer

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Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer – and it’s expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths this year. Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of either the colon or the rectum. The term is often shortened to colon cancer.

Fortunately, colorectal cancer is almost completely preventable. By following proper screening guidelines, cancer in the colon or rectum can be found early enough to be treated more easily. And, if there are polyps, they can be removed and prevent cancer entirely.

There is one way to prevent colon cancer that stands out among the rest – a colonoscopy.

What is Colon Cancer Screening?

Colon cancer screening is done in people who have no symptoms of colon cancer. It is a way for doctors to check the colon and rectum for signs of disease. The purpose is to remove precancerous growths, or polyps, and find cancer early. Early detection of colon cancer means that treatment is easier and more effective. Polyps can transform into cancer and if they are removed, colon cancer can be prevented.

Who Should Be Screened?

Regular screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45. People who have an increased risk of getting colon cancer sometimes begin screening at a younger age. Risk factors include:

  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Genetic familial syndromes
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

A person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer may also be increased by certain lifestyle factors including:

  • A diet high in fat
  • A diet high in red or processed meat
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Cigarette smoking
  • A low-fiber diet
  • Alcohol use
  • Obesity

Screening Tests

Multiple screening tests are available to detect colorectal cancer before a person experiences symptoms.

Stool-based screening tests can sometimes detect colorectal cancer. They are not very effective for detecting precancerous polyps. Stool-based tests include:

  • Fecal immunochemical tests (FITs): measure blood (hemoglobin) in the stool.
  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood tests (gFOBTs): use a chemical (guaiac) to find blood in the stool.
  • Multitarget stool DNA testing (Cologuard): uses a biomarker panel to analyze a stool sample for 10 DNA markers, as well as hemoglobin.

A colonoscopy is a screening test that is highly effective in detecting both precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer.

The #1 Way to Prevent Colon Cancer: Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to see inside the digestive tract. They can examine the entire lining of the colon. A flexible tube with a tiny camera is used to directly view the inside of the rectum and colon. The doctor looks for specific changes such as irritated tissues, polyps, or signs of cancer.

Preparation

Before a colonoscopy can be performed the colon must be cleaned out so the doctor can see the inside well. This usually involves drinking a laxative liquid which causes watery diarrhea for several hours.
General anesthesia is typically administered to perform the colonoscopy. Air is introduced into the colon to help provide a better view.

Procedure

A colonoscopy finds most small polyps and almost all large polyps and cancers. When found, the polyps can be removed right away and sent to a lab to be checked for cancer.
A colonoscopy generally takes about 30 minutes, and several hours for the sedative to wear off. After the exam, it is common to feel bloated or pass gas to clear air from the colon.

Recovery

Recovery from a colonoscopy is done at home the same day to allow time for anesthesia to wear off. Regular activity can be resumed quickly with no additional downtime. To help with healing, it is important to follow post-procedure instructions and allow for enough time to get back to normal.

A colonoscopy could save your life. Don’t delay – schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy today!

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