Colonoscopy Screenings: The Gold Standard for Detecting Colorectal Cancer

Nearly 50,000 men and women in America pass away from colon and rectal cancer annually. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer fatalities for men and women combined. Fortunately, it is highly treatable and, when identified in the early stages, the outlook can be quite good.

The FDA has authorized three brands of based analysis exams for colorectal cancer. These exams operate by uncovering abnormal shifts in the feces, such as blood or DNA markers for colon and rectal cancer. While the comparative simplicity of these exams can make them appear like an acceptable replacement, it is crucial to note that the colonoscopy remains the best option for the identification and prompt treatment of colorectal cancer. For patients in Dallas, TX, a GI doctor who can carry out a colonoscopy is available at your local Digestive Health Associates of Texas office.

Why should you get a colon cancer screening?

Prompt detection is key to defeating colon and rectal cancer. If cancer is caught in the colon or rectum before it has time to metastasize, the five-year chance of survival is approximately 90%. Though additional approaches to screening for colorectal cancer are available, none are as accurate and as reliable as the colonoscopy screening. The greatest weapons in the battle against colon and rectal cancer are colorectal cancer knowledge and regular colonoscopies.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

To begin your colonoscopy, your GI doctor will provide you with preparatory directions to make certain your colon (large intestine) is empty during the screening. These guidelines may involve:

  • Fasting: You might be required to abstain from solid food and ingest only translucent fluids for a set period of time prior to your colonoscopy.

  • Consuming a laxative: Your gastroenterologist may give you a laxative or "bowel prep" to clear your colon either the night prior to or the morning of your exam.

  • Adjusting prescription drugs: If you take specific medications for heart problems, diabetes, or blood pressure, then you could be asked to modify the amount or cease using them on a temporary basis.

During the colonoscopy, you will likely receive a mild sedative to help you feel calm and then will be asked to lie on your side. A slim, flexible tube with a small camera on the end will be fed inside your bowels. This tube, or colonoscope, is designed to run the length of the colon. Your gastroenterologist will evaluate the live images from the colonoscope's camera on a special monitor and search for anything abnormal. In the event a polyp (growth) or another irregularity is identified, special instruments can be fed through the colonoscope to perform a biopsy of the tissue.

When should you have a colonoscopy exam?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) suggests that patients book their initial colon cancer screening at 45 years of age followed by once every ten years when there is an average risk for the disease. If you are at an increased chance of getting colon or rectal cancer, then your GI specialist might advise having a colonoscopy on a 3 to 5-year basis. The risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer

  • Personal history of multiple polyps, large polyps, or colon cancer

  • GI concerns, like Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Your GI specialist may also suggest a colonoscopy if you are noticing any of these symptoms of colon and rectal cancer:

  • Chronic constipation

  • Blood in your stool

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loose stools

  • Abdominal discomfort

People in Dallas, TX who are having these signs or symptoms should contact Digestive Health Associates of Texas to meet with a gastroenterologist as soon as possible.

Why is a colonoscopy the gold standard for colorectal cancer screenings?

While a few home-based test kits have been given FDA approval, a colonoscopy remains the most effective method of detecting colon or rectal cancer. In addition, potentially cancerous or large polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy which minimizes the need for further treatments. An individual who tests positive on an at-home screening will still need to arrange for a colonoscopy to confirm the test results and have any polyps removed.

Need to set up a colon cancer screening in Dallas, TX?

If you are 45 or older, receiving periodic colon and rectal cancer screenings is a central part of maintaining your digestive and general health. Colonoscopies at Digestive Health Associates of Texas can help diagnose and prevent colon cancer, providing you peace of mind if you are cancer-free and giving you a good fighting chance if cancer is detected early. For more information about protecting your health against colorectal cancer, or to arrange for a colonoscopy in Dallas, TX, please reach out to one of our GI offices today.