ADVENTIST LA GRANGE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Why You Shouldn't Fear a Colon Cancer Screening
Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital issued the following announcement on April 9.
Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S., with about 145,600 cases diagnosed each year. It’s the second-most diagnosed cancer in women, and the third-most in men. And if you’re waiting until age 50 to get your first colon cancer screening, you may not have heard the news.
Incidences of colorectal cancer under age 50 have risen over the past two decades, so the American Cancer Society has altered its recommendations even for people without risk factors. The age for recommended first screening has been pushed up to 45.
The most important thing to know about colorectal cancer is that it’s very easy to treat if it’s discovered early. Despite this, many people may be reluctant to schedule the screening — it’s a sensitive subject.
The Truth About Colon Cancer Screenings
For many people, two big misconceptions keep them from scheduling a colon cancer screening. First, that colonoscopies are painful and uncomfortable; and second, that colonoscopies are the only screening method available.
Neither is true. Colonoscopies aren’t nearly as unpleasant as you may have been led to believe (they’ve improved since your parents underwent them), and while they are still the preferred screening method, other options are perfectly acceptable as long as you receive them on schedule.
Here’s a quick primer on the types of colon cancer screenings and some of their pros and cons.
During a colonoscopy, your doctor views the interior surface of your colon using a colonoscope, a long, thin instrument equipped with a camera and a tool for removing polyps.
That tool is why colonoscopies remain the preferred colorectal cancer screening method. Not only is a colonoscope the most accurate diagnostic tool, it’s the only one that can also remove many of the abnormalities the doctor might find. If you discover an abnormality with a different diagnostic tool, you’ll need a colonoscopy anyway to address it.
A colonoscopy typically takes 30 to 60 minutes, and the vast majority of procedures performed in the U.S. are performed under sedation. But fair warning — there is going to be some degree of discomfort. You’ll be limited to only clear liquids for 24 hours before the procedure, and you’ll also have to take a laxative. But even that has improved in recent years. Modern patients won’t need to swallow as much as generations past, and the taste has improved as well.
Stool-based tests can be a lot more convenient than a colonoscopy, especially since a patient can take them right at home. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) can test for blood in the stool, which could be a sign of colorectal cancer, ulcers, hemorrhoids or other conditions. One stool-based test, Cologuard®, earned FDA approval in 2014, and can check both for blood and for the kind of DNA mutations that colorectal cancer or polyp cells can cause.
Another benefit of the Cologuard test? You don’t need to make any dietary adjustments to get an accurate reading. Still, with results only about 93% as accurate as a colonoscopy, you’ll be accepting a slightly higher risk as the price of convenience.
During a virtual colonoscopyt, your doctor will use a computed tomography (CT) scan to produce hundreds of cross-sectional images of your abdominal muscles. According to a 2007 study from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, virtual colonoscopies are about as accurate as standard colonoscopies — as long as the polyps are 5 millimeters or larger. As with a traditional colonoscopy, you’ll have to schedule an appointment to have this test completed, and you’ll still have to prepare with the all-liquid diet and pre-procedure laxative.
Of course, if your virtual colonoscopy finds something to be concerned about, you’ll need to get a standard colonoscopy anyway. But the virtual version is a good choice for people who are at risk of colonoscopy complications such as excessive bleeding or clotting issues.
When it comes to your colon health, there’s no need to be squeamish. A colon cancer screening might sound like a pain in the, er, neck, but it’s not nearly as bad as you might be dreading. The best way to rest assured is to get yourself tested and treated on schedule. You won’t regret it.
Is your 45th birthday coming up (or already passed)? Then it’s time to schedule your first colonoscopy screening. If you’re 50 or older, you might also be eligible to skip the initial doctor appointment when you schedule your colonoscopy.
Original source can be found here.
Source: Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital