Colorectal Cancer Screening 101: Everything You Need to Know

Screening for colorectal cancer is the best way to detect and treat the disease earlier than it may have been caught otherwise. Colorectal cancer screening is used to look for the disease when a person is not showing any symptoms, but may fit the criteria of people who are prone to getting a particular disease, whether the factor is age, family history, or something else. We’ll take a look at the ins and outs of colorectal cancer screening, including who should get screened, the types of screening tests used, and what happens during your screening.

Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?

While it’s recommended by the American Cancer Society that everyone over the age of 45 be screened, high-risk individuals who either have a family history of the disease or have inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis should be screened earlier than that. Knowing your risk factors and family history will allow you to plan your appropriate screening schedule with your colorectal specialists.

What tests are used to screen for colorectal cancer?

There are many different tests to screen for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will choose which test is best for your unique needs. Here are a few common screening tests for colorectal cancer:

·       Colonoscopy. Using a tube with a camera at the end, your doctor is able to look inside the entire rectum and colon to look for polyps or cancer. Your doctor can remove a small sample of tissue—or biopsy—an area from your rectum and colon and send to the lab for testing.

·       Computed tomography (CT) colonography. This is often referred to as a virtual colonoscopy and is a newer method of screening for colorectal cancer. One benefit of this method is that the CT colonography may be a viable alternative for people who cannot risk being put under anesthesia during a standard colonoscopy.

·       Sigmoidoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy uses a flexible tube with a light on the end that is inserted into the rectum and lower colon is able to screen for polyps, cancer, and other abnormalities. During this procedure, a doctor can remove polyps or other tissue for later examination. This screening test also allows your doctor to removal polyps. Since this test cannot be used to view the upper colon, if any polyps are found, your doctor will likely recommend a colonoscopy to view the entire colon.

·       Stool DNA tests. Using a stool sample, your doctor will analyze DNA to look for cancer. This test will usually help your doctor determine whether or not a colonoscopy should be done.

Other tests include: Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) or Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT), depending on what your doctor needs.

 Regular screening for colorectal cancer is your first line in defense being able to treat it before it progresses or spreads to other parts of your body. Keep the lines of communication open with your doctor to discuss the best route of screening for you.