Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. It’s estimated that 52,550 men and women in the United States will lose their lives to colon cancer in 2023. Although this disease affects many people, it’s often preventable with regular colon cancer screening exams.
Throughout the year, we’re spreading awareness about colon cancer and the value of preventative screenings. Getting screened for colon cancer can save your life. If we increase participation rates with screening exams, we can lower the incidence of colon cancer. So spread the word to your friends and family!
This article will outline colon cancer screening guidelines and recommendations. We’ll also discuss your screening options, such as the Cologuard (at-home) test and screening colonoscopy. Lastly, we’ll highlight the signs and symptoms of colon cancer that you should look out for. We hope this article encourages you and your loved ones to stay up-to-date with colon cancer screenings.
Colon Cancer Screening Recommendations
Getting screened for colon cancer can reduce your risk of developing the disease. In some cases, screening exams can prevent precancerous polyps from turning into cancer. Colon cancer screening is life-saving, so knowing the recommended guidelines is essential.
The current colon cancer screening guidelines recommend that anyone 45 to 75 years of age get screened at regular intervals. Colon cancer rates in younger adults are rising, which is why the screening age was recently lowered from 50 to 45 years.
Certain factors increase your risk of colon cancer. You may need earlier and more frequent screening if you have any of the following:
- Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- A personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps
- An inherited colon cancer syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
Colon Cancer Screening Options
The two most popular colon cancer screening options are a screening colonoscopy and the Cologuard test. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of these screening options.
The Cologuard test is an at-home screening option available for people at average risk for colon cancer. This test involves taking a stool sample in the convenience of your home. Cologuard can detect certain types of colon cancer by analyzing stool samples for DNA and blood. This is a non-invasive test that doesn’t require any bowel prep beforehand.
While the Cologuard test certainly has its benefits, it’s an inferior test compared to a screening colonoscopy. You must get a diagnostic colonoscopy after a positive Cologuard test to confirm or deny the presence of cancer. This results in a higher out-of-pocket cost compared to getting an initial screening colonoscopy.
If your Cologuard test is negative, you’ll need to get another test in three years. This is much more frequent compared to the ten years between exams for a negative screening colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is the best colon cancer screening option. This is because it’s the only exam that can both detect and remove precancerous polyps. For this reason, it’s known as the gold-standard for colon cancer screening.
Before a screening colonoscopy, you’ll need to complete a bowel prep to clean out your colon. This enables your doctor to get a clear visual of the inside of your colon and increases the effectiveness of detecting polyps. Most colon cancers start as polyps and take years to grow into cancer. A colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer by removing these polyps before they become cancerous.
During the exam, your doctor inserts a long, flexible tube with a camera into the rectum. Your doctor watches the camera feed on a nearby monitor to examine your colon for abnormalities. While this exam is more invasive, it’s safe and painless. You receive anesthesia during the procedure so that you won’t feel discomfort. Feeling anxious about getting a colonoscopy is normal, but it’s often much easier than expected.
If you’re unable to get a colonoscopy, you should discuss with your doctor which screening test is best for you. The most important thing you can do is to get screened for colon cancer! Treatment is more successful when colon cancer is in the early stages of development.
Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Regular screening exams can detect colon cancer years before you notice any signs and symptoms. In many cases, colon cancer shows no warning signs at all. It can take several years for colon cancer to become advanced enough to cause symptoms.
The most common signs and symptoms of colon cancer are:
- A change in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
- Red or dark blood in stools
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Abdominal pain, cramps, or gas
- Narrow or thin stools
If you experience any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor to schedule a colonoscopy.
Colon Cancer Screening in Plano, TX
Staying up-to-date on colon cancer screening can drastically reduce your risk of colon cancer. The current screening guidelines recommend that anyone 45 years of age and older get screened.
The colonoscopy and Cologuard tests are both effective screening options for colon cancer. However, we highly recommend that you opt for a screening colonoscopy. This procedure is the better option because it’s the only exam that can both detect and remove precancerous polyps. No matter what screening option you choose, the most important thing is to get screened. And don’t forget to spread this message to your friends and family!
Catching colon cancer early can save your life. Early-stage cancer in the colon has promising treatment outcomes. Localized cancer, or cancer that hasn’t spread outside the colon or rectum, has a 91% 5-year survival rate. This means that people with localized co