Colon Cancer Prevention

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Colon Cancer Prevention

When it comes to cancer, preventing it should always be the goal. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps. Finding, quantifying, localizing, and removing polyps through screening colonoscopy is the most effective strategy to prevent colorectal cancer.

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Orlena’s Story: Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives

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Colorectal Cancer Screening Options

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that all adults with an average risk of colorectal cancer undergo regular screening using one of the tests described below. Learn more about colorectal cancer screening tests on the ACS website.

How?When?ProsCons
ColonoscopyIf no polyps are found, repeat every 10 years. If polyps are detected, following your doctor’s recommendation, typically repeat every 3-5 years.The procedure is diagnostic and therapeutic, colon polyps can be found and removed in the same appointment.Bowel preparation is required.
Risk, although low, is inherent in all medical procedures.
Stool testing: FIT, FOBT or Stool DNARepeat every year for FIT & FOBT; every 3 years for Stool DNAThese high-sensitivity stool tests do not require bowel preparation and can be completed using at at-home test kit. Of the 3, the Stool DNA test has the highest performance in cancer and adenoma detection but false positive tests may occur, leading to additional testing via colonoscopy.Many people do not adhere to the annual or 3-year testing recommendation, putting them at risk.
False positives may occur, resulting in the need for a colonoscopy.
These tests are not therapeutic; if positive, a patient must undergo a colonoscopy.
Flexible SigmoidoscopyRepeat every 5 yearsLess preparation; anesthesia is not requiredDoes not visualize the entire colon, some polyps and cancers may be missed.
Risk, although low, is inherent in all medical procedures.
CT ColonographyRepeat every 5 yearsComparable performance to colonoscopy.Exposure to low-dose radiation.
Not typically covered by insurance.
Bowel preparation is necessary and positive findings result it the need for a colonoscopy.

Who should take action?

Men & women age 45 and older who have an average risk of colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society defines average risk as no family history of colorectal cancer and no personal history of colon polyps, colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or hereditary conditions that may increase your risk (such as Lynch syndrome).

African Americans age 45 and older. Because colorectal cancer affects African Americans more than any other ethnic group, screening is especially important.

Anyone with a personal or family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer or certain health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or Lynch syndrome. Some people should be screened before age 45. Talk to your doctor if you have certain conditions that may increase your risk.

Common Concerns

Preparing for your screening test is key to a successful result. If you’re concerned about fasting or nausea, know that there are many prep options available. Talk to your doctor first to choose the right prep for you.

Most insurance plans cover colorectal cancer screening without applying co-pays or deductibles. If you do not have insurance, there are state assistance programs and non-profit organizations that can help.

When under the care of a trained professional, a colonoscopy is a very safe procedure with serious complications occurring in less than 1% of patients.

How to Prepare

A thorough exam and consultation with a gastroenterologist is the best, first step ahead of scheduling a colon cancer screening test of any kind. Your doctor will assess your individual risk, based on your personal and family history and help you choose the right test.

Most people choose to schedule a colonoscopy because it not only identifies pre-cancerous colon polyps but allows your doctor to remove them at the same time. You can schedule your procedure on the day of your consultation.

Preparing for a colonoscopy is an important step and allows your doctor to clearly see the structure of your colon. Your doctor’s office will provide you with the information you need to prepare.

Reducing Risk Through Lifestyle

A diet high in red meats or processed meats raises your risk for developing colon cancer, as does being overweight. Adjust your diet to limit these foods and remain conscious of maintaining a healthy weight.

Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight not only reduces your risk of developing many types of cancer, but other chronic diseases. A regular exercise routine can help you with achieve a healthy weight and improve the way your immune system works.

Use of tobacco and alcohol are both strongly linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Limiting or eliminating these habits is especially recommended for individuals with additional risk factors.