Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. It is also one of the most preventable – but only if it’s caught in time.
In most cases, cancer cells don’t develop from normal colon cells. Rather, normal cells develop abnormal changes and become small growths, called polyps, in the colon. While most polyps are not cancerous, certain types are highly likely to become cancerous and should be removed to prevent colon cancer.
Everyone 45* years of age or older should get regular screenings for colorectal cancer. If you have a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors you may need to be screened starting at an earlier age.
Colon Cancer Screening
Routine screenings to identify and remove polyps are vital to preventing colon cancer. Currently, there are several methods of colorectal cancer screening available. Borland Groover uses the following screening methods for the detection of colon cancer because studies have shown that these screening methods detect high-risk polyps and colon cancer at a higher rate than other screening modalities. While each one has pros and cons, only a colonoscopy is widely considered to be the gold standard as it is the only test that can detect and remove polyps effectively preventing colon cancer.
Colonoscopy is rated above all other colorectal cancer screening methods by the American Cancer Society, as well as the three leading national gastroenterology associations. It is the only colorectal cancer screening method that prevents colon cancer by detecting and removing high-risk colon polyps.
What is a polyp? Simply put, polyps are masses of tissue within the bowel. Polyps can be small or large, benign or malignant, but can become malignant or cancerous over time if not removed.
Stool blood test
A fecal occult blood test, or stool blood test, is used to screen for early colon cancer. Stool samples are collected at home and sent in for testing. If the test is positive, a diagnostic colonoscopy or further testing may be required.
Much like a colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy (flex-sig) uses a small, flexible instrument to examine the colon and screen for polyps, which may become cancerous. However, unlike a colonoscopy, flex-sig cannot examine the entire colon.
Flex-sig requires minimal preparation, usually consisting of one or two enemas or laxatives before the procedure. It takes just ten minutes, and no sedation or pain medication is required.
Barium enema with air contrast
This test uses a series of x-rays of the colon to screen for colon cancer. First, you will be given an enema with a white, chalky substance, which outlines the colon on x-rays. Then a gastroenterologist will slowly introduce air into the colon, expanding it for better visibility. If polyps are found, a colonoscopy or further testing may be required.
CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create images of the entire colon and rectum. Through virtual colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist is able to see irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers and polyps. If polyps are found, further procedures may be required for biopsy or removal.
"When Should I Start Screening?"View the Guide
*New recommendations by American Cancer Society states colon cancer screenings should begin at age 45 for people at average risk. Please check with your insurance provider for coverage options for colon cancer screening before the age of 50. Most insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, cover procedures based on recommendations made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF recommends screening starting at age 50.