Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives
More than 130,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year - and nearly 50,000 of them die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. after lung cancer. Despite being preventable, more than 30 percent of the adults in this country are not getting screened for colorectal cancer.
The good news is that colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate when it is detected early enough. In fact, gastroenterologists can perform a colonoscopy before they exhibit any symptoms as these highly-trained doctors are able to detect and remove colon polyps that can turn into colon cancer while they perform this procedure.
It is important for every patient to discuss getting screened for colorectal cancer with their primary care physician or gastroenterologist.
The Right Test at the Right Time
There are several ways to get screened for colorectal cancer and colon polyps. Primary care physicians and gastroenterologists can help their patients determine which colorectal cancer screening option is appropriate for them, keeping in mind that the best method varies for everyone based on their unique history and risk factors.
National guidelines recommend that every man and woman should be screened for colorectal cancer as soon as they turn 45 years old — even if they haven’t exhibited or experienced any problems or symptoms.
Patients who have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer may need to be screened before they turn 45 and/or need more frequent screening. Those who are at higher risk include, but are not limited to, people who have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, people who have had pre-cancerous polyps removed and people who have a long-standing history of inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).
Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests
Today’s colorectal cancer screening tests include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT or virtual colonoscopy, fecal immunochemical (FIT) and stool MT-sDNA (Cologuard). It is important to note that a colonoscopy is sti ll required if a stool test or CT scan flags any abnormalities.
Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is used to detect polyps, which are small growths that develop on the lining of the colon. Removing these polyps significantly reduces a patient’s risk for developing colorectal cancer. During this procedure, the gastroenterologist passes a flexible and slender endoscope tube through the patient’s rectum and into their colon. The gastroenterologist then examines the colon for polyps or any other abnormalities. If they detect any polyps, they remove them using a small device known as a snare that is passed through the endoscope. Most colorectal cancer can be prevented by removing these polyps.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a test that gastroenterologists perform to examine a patient’s rectum and sigmoid colon for signs of colorectal cancer, although this may not be suitable for finding precancerous polyps in other parts of the colon.
CT or Virtual Colonoscopy: CT or virtual colonoscopy uses specialized x-rays and software to create two- and three-dimensional images of the colon that are used to detect colorectal cancer and polyps.
FIT: A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is used to detect blood that is hidden in a patient’s stool, which can be an early sign of colorectal cancer. This is a convenient and widely-utilized test that people can conduct at home. These tests are normally conducted on an annual basis once a person meets the criteria for colon cancer screening.
MT-sDNA: Multi -target stool DNA (mt-sDNA) or “Cologuard” detects blood and identifies biomarkers in the stool that are associated with colorectal cancer and polyps. This is also a simple, non-invasive stool test that people can conduct at home.
Find The Right Test For Your Risk
How to ﬁnd a Gastroenterologist
Patients who need to get screened for colorectal cancer can visit ASGE.org/FindADoctor to locate an ASGE member gastroenterologist in their community who has received specialized training in these procedures.
Important Reminder: This information is intended only to provide general guidance. It does not provide definitive medical advice. It is very important that you consult your doctor about your specific condition.