Screening Standards for Colorectal Cancer
Screening tests find health problems early, before symptoms appear. Regular testing to find colon cancer early is very important because as soon as there are symptoms, it's usually too late to cure colon cancer.
Regular testing greatly lowers your risk of dying from colon cancer.
Routine testing is recommended for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for colon cancer. People with a higher risk, such as African Americans and people with a strong family a history of colon cancer, should be tested sooner.
A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy can also prevent colon cancer by finding polyps before they turn into cancer. And if you have a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, any polyps that are found can be removed during the test.
The preferred screening strategy recommended by the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) is a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50, or age 45 every 10 years if you are African American.
Current screening methods for colorectal cancer include:
This test gives a comprehensive view of the inside of your rectum and your entire colon. The test involves the insertion of a lighted tube into you rectum where it is then slowly advanced to the end of your colon. This allows the doctor to see any abnormalities such as polyps, and if found the doctor can remove them via a procedure named a polypectomy.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test
This test detects blood in your stool. Polyps and or cancers in the colorectal area may bleed. This test requires no medical procedure and samples are collected by the patient at home. Blood in the stool can also be caused by other medical issues so should this test be positive, further tests will be ordered by your physician to better determine the cause.
This test involves your doctor inserting a lighted tube into your rectum and the lower part of the colon. This allows the doctor to see any abnormalities such as polyps, and if found, the doctor will remove them via a procedure named a polypectomy.
- Double-Contrast Barium Enema
A patient is given an enema containing a barium solution. Air is pumped into the rectum and x-rays are then taken of your colon and rectum. Polyps and other abnormalities may show up on the x-ray.
- Virtual Colonoscopy
A procedure where Images of the large intestine are taken using computerized tomography (CT) or, less often, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A computer puts the images together to create an animated, three-dimensional view of the inside of the large intestine. However, this test does not exclude the necessity for a regular colonoscopy if, based on the results, there is a need for a biopsy.
At Alta Bates Summit Medical Center we perform both colonoscopies and virtual colonoscopies. Please ask your primary care physician to refer you to the appropriate Medical Center specialist.
According to the American Cancer Society, colon and rectum caner risk has declined steadily in California over the last 18 years. It has been suggested that a major factor in the decline has been that the increased use of screening has resulted in the removal of benign polyps that would have progressed to cancer.
View an American Cancer Society video on colorectal screening
More information is available via the Markstein Cancer Education and Prevention Services. They are committed to providing the public with the information needed to understand the role that early detection and adoption of risk-reducing lifestyle habits play in both preventing and treating cancer.
Their programs include outreach education initiatives, free community cancer screenings and they offer support and educational tools to those touched by a diagnosis of cancer. For more information, please call (510) 869-8833.
Your doctor's office is one of the best places to keep a regular schedule of annual check-ups and screenings. To select an Alta Bates Summit physician, view our list of specialists.