According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Recent studies show a rise in colorectal cancer rates among individuals younger than 50 years of age, prompting ACS and USPSTF (U.S. Preventative Services Task Force) to lower the recommended screening age to 45 for those at average risk of developing colorectal cancer. Getting screened even younger and more often may be recommended for those at higher risk.
People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer:
- Family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps (mom, dad, siblings, children)
- Personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- Personal history of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s)
- Family history of hereditary syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or lynch syndrome
- History of radiation to the abdomen
If any of these risk factors apply to you, request a consultation with one of our specialists today and stay on top of your colorectal health. While there are a variety of studies that can be used to identify polyps and colon cancer, a colonoscopy remains the preferred method for detection and quick removal of pre-cancerous polyps.
Colon Cancer Screening Process
Whether you’ve been referred for a colonoscopy by your primary care physician or meaning to get yourself scheduled, a new patient consultation with a gastroenterologist is the important first step in getting screened. With a consultation, your provider will have the opportunity to go over your medical records and identify the right colorectal cancer screening for you. Included in your initial office visit, your provider will go over preparation, risk factors and answer any questions you might have about prep, procedure, and what to expect after. Preparation for your procedure revolves around emptying your colon so your physician can get clear images of your colon. There are a variety of preparation options available, and you and your physician can discuss what the best option is for you. While preparing for your colonoscopy isn’t always convenient, it’s important to follow all instructions to ensure a successful exam. For more information on what to expect from colon cancer screening and other types of screening options available, see one of our past blogs.
Why is it important to get screened?
Screening for colorectal cancer is a means of prevention. Early detection is important as colorectal cancer is highly treatable if found in the beginning stages and early stages of colorectal cancer usually present with no symptoms. While there are several screening options available, a colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for its ability to detect as well as remove pre-cancerous polyps during the procedure.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a nonsurgical outpatient procedure that uses a colonoscope to view the lower GI tract including the large intestine, or colon, and the rectum.
You will lie on your left side with your knees bent for the procedure and receive pain-relieving medication and sedation through an IV line to relax you and make you feel drowsy.
Your doctor will insert the scope through your anus into your rectum and colon. Air is pumped through the scope to inflate the colon, so it is easier to see. A small camera mounted on the endoscope transmits live images to a video monitor. Special instruments may be inserted through the scope to obtain tissue samples or remove abnormal growths.
A colonoscopy typically takes 30-60 minutes. After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room while the sedative wears off. Your doctor will review the results of your colonoscopy with you after your procedure or during a follow-up appointment.
While the new guideline of getting screened at 45 years of age is recommended, it’s important to talk to your insurance provider to find out what your colorectal cancer screening coverage consists of. Prevention is better than the alternatives but speaking with your insurance carrier as well as your gastroenterologist will help give you a clear picture of included services and the costs associated.