The importance of colon cancer screening
Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer in both men and women, and the second leading cause of death by cancer in the United States. Screenings, such as colonoscopies, play a vital role in cancer prevention and early detection. By knowing more about colon cancer screening, you can reduce your risk and if needed, receive life-saving treatment sooner.
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer, used interchangeably with colorectal cancer, is a type of malignant tumor originating from an abnormal growth of the lining of the lower intestinal tract, located in the colon and rectum.
What does a colon cancer screening involve?
There are several options for colon cancer screening. Your doctor will choose the best option for you based on your medical and family history. While there are several screenings available, including tests that detect blood and abnormal DNA or tests that generate images of the colon using X-ray, the most accurate test is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows your physician to directly look at the colon and rectum for colon polyps and tumors. It can detect colon cancer before any symptoms occur such as pain or bleeding. Colon cancer screening by colonoscopy reduces the colorectal mortality rate by greater than 50%.
When should I begin screening?
Several professional medical societies recommend beginning colorectal screening at age 50 if no one in the family has been diagnosed with colon cancer or other conditions associated with increased risk of colon cancer. For individuals with significant family history of colon cancer, a colonoscopy is recommended as the preferred test.
While a colonoscopy or other colon cancer screenings can be a difficult and sometimes embarrassing topic to talk about, the importance of screening cannot be understated. It’s a key way to prevent cancer in the long term and ensure you receive the best outcomes.
Chris Huang, MD, is a board-certified gastroenterologist and internal medicine physician, seeing patients and providing screenings at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital. To learn more, visit www.bjcstcharlescounty.org or schedule an appointment with Dr. Huang at 636.916.9615.