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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States among both men and women. There are approximately 145,000 new cases of Colorectal Cancer yearly in the United States. Of those 145,000 new cases, approximately 51,000 result in death (American Cancer Society, 2019).

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that can be found in the colon or rectum. Polyps, or growths, can be found in the inner lining of the colon or rectum and can become cancerous and spread throughout the body. Early colorectal cancer has no symptoms or signs, but more advanced colorectal cancer may include warning signs of rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits or pain in the abdomen. It is important to get one of the many colorectal screening tests to allow more time for treatment options, if cancer is found. It was found by the American Cancer Society that 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with timely colorectal cancer screenings. Individuals over the age of 45 should be screened for colorectal cancer, and individuals with colorectal cancer history in their family, should start screenings at the age of 40.

Types of Colorectal Screening Tests

Colonoscopy: Every 10 years
Examination of the large intestines and rectum by utilizing specialized instruments with a camera on a flexible tube through the anus. This visual diagnosis allows the opportunity to sample tissue for biopsy or removal. The test requires emptying of the large bowel through medications, fluids or enemas prior to examination and a sedative during procedure.

CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): Every 5 years
3-Dimensional (3D) view of the colon and rectum utilizing an advanced type of CT (x-ray). This quick, less invasive examination requires emptying of the large bowel through medications, fluids or enemas. A small flexible tube will be inserted only into the rectum, along with air to help visualize the colon better. A colonoscopy would still be needed if polyps or other suspicious areas are seen.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years
Utilizes a sigmoidoscopy (flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera) that is inserted through the anus after the patient has had proper bowel cleaning through medications, fluids or enemas. This examination only looks at the rectum and about half of the colon. Although this instrument allows for the biopsy of suspicious areas, all positive findings need to have a colonoscopy to look at the rest of the colon.

Stool Based (FIT, gFOBT, Fecal DNA/Cologuard): Every year
These less invasive screening tests help detect hidden blood in the stool and/or DNA changes that may indicate colorectal cancer. All positive samples require a colonoscopy to examine the colon and confirm diagnosis.

Schedule an appointment with a Gastroenterologist today to stay up-to-date with your colorectal cancer screening.

Additional Resource: Cancer.org

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