If you are waiting for your body to tell you if you have colon cancer, it may…but it will be too late. Most cases of colon cancer do not exhibit symptoms until the disease is advanced and difficult to treat. Don’t let life happen to you, instead, learn the importance of colon cancer screenings and the most effective type of test. You can live in denial of the statistics, or you can put it to the test.
Colon cancer testing or screening is important for every man and woman. Standard practice is to begin regular screenings at age 45 for average or low risk and earlier for people at higher risk. High-risk refers to a family or personal history of cancer, especially colon cancer, being African American, and having certain hereditary syndromes such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis. About 52,000 people die from colon cancer every year, but screenings have been shown to reduce the death rate. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that screening prevents six out of every ten deaths from colon cancer. This is because regular testing helps to catch colon cancer early and even identify potential problems before they start. Research shows that the survival rate of someone whose colon cancer is found early, before it has spread, is much higher than for people whose colon cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum.
There are two general types of colon cancer screenings available to people. One is stool tests, and the other is a colonoscopy. Stool tests involve at-home kits where a person can collect a stool sample and send it in to be examined. These tests look for small amounts of blood or changes from year to year that could be signs of colon cancer. Colonoscopies remain the most accurate form of colon cancer screening. Yes, it is a more invasive procedure requiring dietary preparation, but it is by far the most effective at discovering precancerous polyps, which are the precursor to colon cancer.
A study done by COLONPREV Study Investigators found that in people with an average risk for colon cancer, colonoscopies reduced the risk of getting colon cancer by 67% and reduced the rate of death by 65%. The study also suggested that polyp removal, which can be done at the same time as a colonoscopy, could reduce as many as 80% of colon cancers. Unlike stool tests that have to be done every one to three years, a person whose colonoscopy shows no problems can safely wait ten years before another colonoscopy is necessary. Not to mention that if a possible problem is detected in a home test, a colonoscopy is required in order to confirm. While colonoscopies are considered the best test for colon cancer screening, the fact remains that one-third of Americans who should be screened still haven’t gotten tested. When making any kind of medical decision, including when to start testing and which test to use, you should always consult your doctor. If you would like to start the conversation or address specific questions regarding colon cancer and screening, make an appointment with Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. We have eight locations to better serve you.