Colon cancer is relatively common with more than 200,000 documented cases per year. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance reports that it is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.
Most cases of colon cancer begin as adenomatous polyps, which are noncancerous (benign) clumps. These polyps are typically small and cause few if any symptoms, which in a screening is recommended to look for and remove if they’re found.
When is the right time to start screening?
The American Cancer Society recommends individuals with average risk start regular screenings at age 45.
Healthy people with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75.
For people ages 76 through 85, individuals should consider their current life expectancy and overall health. Individuals older than 85 no longer need screening.
Average risk includes people who do not have:
- Any history of polyps or colorectal cancer.
- Diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).
- Any family history of colorectal cancer
- A hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis.
- Radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer.
Individuals who do have a history or diagnosis listed above are considered “Increased or High Risk.”
High risk means screening might begin before 45 years old and occur more frequently. People who’ve had certain types of polyps might need additional screening every three years (or sooner) depending on the type and number of polyps found during the initial screening.
Individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or certain types of genetic disorders might need screening every one to two years starting at a younger age.
When it’s time to begin screening for colon cancer, there are few options.
- Stool-based tests
- Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test
- Multi-target stool DNA test
- Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test
- Visual exams of the colon and rectum
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG)
At Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa, we offer a virtual colonoscopy. A GE Revolution CT scan of your colon generates an image of the colon and a high performance computer software program produces a three-dimensional virtual view of the colon, similar to what is seen during a conventional endoscopy.
However, your physician can view the colon in a “fly-through” simulation. Even better, the process is fast, non-invasive and doesn’t requires anesthesia. Your doctor can also stop and zoom in on specific areas of concern, take detailed measurements and much more.
Talk to your health care provider about which tests might be the best options for you, and discuss coverage with your insurance provider.
Other Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
Other factors that could increase the risk of colon cancer include:
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet
- A sedentary lifestyle
Choosing to be active and eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking and drinking in moderation are also helpful in reducing risk.
Symptoms indicating it is time to talk to your doctor
While many people in early stages of colon cancer may experience no symptoms, there are a few worth talking to your doctor about including:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
- A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
- Persistent abdominal discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
- Weakness or fatigue
If you’re turning 45 or are experiencing abnormal symptoms, get a virtual colonoscopy and urge those you love to do the same. Contact us today at (405) 242-1400 to setup a consultation.