Colorectal cancer is the second-deadliest cancer in the United States, partly because it often goes undiagnosed. Polyps can develop in the colon or rectum and become malignant without presenting any symptoms. For this reason, knowing and addressing your risk factors and undergoing the recommended screenings is crucial.
Colorectal cancer affects both men and women. Even if you have no personal or family history of colon cancer, ask your doctor about colorectal risk factors and when to start screening. With regular screening, colorectal cancer is easily detectable and treatable.
Talk to your primary care doctor about your screening options.
If you are 50 or older, or meet other risk factors, Renown Health recommends a formal colorectal cancer risk assessment.
The most common form of colorectal cancer screening is the colonoscopy. During this test, the doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end into the rectum and slowly move the camera up to the beginning of the colon. This enables the doctor to examine the length of the colon in its entirety, map out any concerning or problem areas and remove polyps.
In order for your doctor to see the lining of the colon and correctly identify polyps or other lesions, the colon must be completely empty. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare for the procedure, which usually include taking a laxative, drinking only clear liquids, and fasting for at least 24 hours before the procedure. Most people consider the preparation more unpleasant than the exam itself, but it’s imperative that you follow the instructions, otherwise the colonoscopy might need to be rescheduled.
Prior to performing the exam, your doctor will give you a sedative. Most people fall asleep and don’t remember the procedure when they wake up. Afterward, your doctor will meet with you to discuss his or her findings.
For most people, colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years starting at age 50. Depending on the results, your doctor may schedule more frequent screenings. If you are 76 or older, talk with your doctor. He or she will take into account your overall health and prior screening history before scheduling a colonoscopy.
The FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) Test is a simple, at-home colorectal cancer screening kit that you can complete in the privacy of your own home. FIT Tests are pain-free, require no dietary or medication restrictions and can be completed in about 10 minutes. Completion involves collecting a stool sample and placing it on a test card or tube and returning it to the doctor’s office. FIT Tests may be covered by your insurance. Please talk with your insurance provider to see if the FIT Test is covered.
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