Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. Many people experience no symptoms at all during the early stages of colorectal cancer.
If you’re over 50, or have a family history of colon cancer, you could be at risk and not even know it. Regular screenings, such as a colonoscopy, are the best way to detect colon cancer early.
Why are colorectal screenings important?
- Most colon cancer begins as harmless polyps or growths in your colon.
- Doctors can remove these polyps during a colonoscopy.
- The goal is to find the polyps and remove them before they become cancerous.
- Since there are typically few symptoms of early stage colon cancer, the only way to know is through regular screenings.
Talk to your doctor about which screening test is right for you.
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): This test looks for blood in your stool. You do this test at home and send stool samples for analysis.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG): The doctor looks for polyps or cancer in the rectum and lower third of the colon.
- Both annual FOBT and FSIG every five years
- Double-contrast barium enema every five years
- Colonoscopy: The doctor looks for polyps of cancer in the rectum and the entire colon.
When do I need to get my first colonoscopy?
- Get your first colonoscopy at age 50 if you are Caucasian or Asian, and don’t have a family history of colon cancer.
- Get your first colonoscopy at age 45 if you are African-American.
- For those with a parent or sibling who has had colon cancer,
schedule your colonoscopy for 10 years before their age when diagnosed.
So, if your father was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 53, you need
your first colonoscopy at 43.
- If you have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis you may need to begin screenings sooner.
- The good news is that most polyps grow slowly, so after a polyp
free colonoscopy, most people won’t need another one for five to 10
What can I expect during a colonoscopy?
- The day before a colonoscopy, you’ll need to be on a clear liquid diet and drink a laxative.
- Don’t worry, the preparation has gotten easier. Today’s laxatives are easier to swallow and you need a smaller amount.
- During the screening procedure you will receive anesthesia. Most
people do not remember a thing during the actual colonoscopy; we work
really hard to make sure that you are comfortable.
How can I reduce my risk of colon cancer?
- Limit the amount of red meats, saturated fats and processed foods you eat.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk.
- Exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
- Limit alcohol consumption. If you drink, recommended limits are one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
- If you smoke, take steps to quit.
- Get screened. Schedule your colonoscopy with a specially trained Beaumont Health physician. Colonoscopies are covered by most health
People with any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and be screened more often:
- strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- family with hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC)
- personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease