Why Should I Be Screened For Colon Cancer? - Houston Colon – Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery

Why Should I Be Screened For Colon Cancer?

May 9, 2011

With regular screening by Houston colorectal surgeons, colorectal cancer can be prevented altogether or caught its earliest stages once it has begun. Since colon cancer does not always present with symptoms, screening is vital in catching cancer before it has progressed too far.

Colorectal cancer ranks second in cancer killers amongst men and women in the United States. Around 75% of colorectal cancer patients have no known risk factors. The only people who are at definite risk of developing colon cancer are people with personal or family history with colon polyps or colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or a genetic syndrome such as familial polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.

When colorectal cancer does present with symptoms, they are among the following: blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain and cramping. Screening by a colorectal surgeon in Houston is a test that physicians use to look for a disease before symptoms present themselves.

Screening is only useful when it can detect disease early. When colon cancer is detected early, it can be treated early with a much better outcome. Since most colon cancers are caused by colon polyps which grow out of the lining of the colon, removing those can prevent cancer from even beginning. Only screening can detect when polyps are present, there is not a blood test that exists that can give the answers screening does.

There are several types of colorectal cancer screening studies. A physician can use one alone or in combination with others. Once a person has reached the age of 50, it is recommended to begin getting regular screenings. The three most commonly used are:

  1. Stool test or FOBT: In this screening method chemicals or antibodies are used to see if any blood exists in the stool. This test can be repeated yearly.
  2. Flexible sigmoidoscopy: In this screening method a short, flexible tube with a light is inserted into the rectum to check for polyps and cancer. It is only able to search the rectum and lower third of the colon. This test can be repeated every five years.
  3. Colonoscopy: In this most common screening method, a tube is inserted similar to the sigmoidoscopy. This difference is that in a colonoscopy it is able to view the entire colon and remove any polyps found. This test can be repeated every ten years and more often if ordered by a physician. The colonoscopy is also used as a follow-up test if a positive result comes about from a different type of screening, such as stool test, sigmoidoscopy, double contrast barium enema, virtual colonoscopy and stool DNA test.
  4. Double contrast barium enemas, virtual colonoscopy and stool DNA tests are less commonly recommended. The enema is where barium is inserted then air to create an outline around the colon that the doctor can view on an x-ray. A virtual colonoscopy produces images for a colon surgeon to view the entire colon using x-rays. The stool DNA test is when stool is collected and sent off to a lab to test for cancerous cells.

Colorectal cancer is the #2 cancer killer of people over the age of 50.  Conversely, colon cancer is one of the most treatable when detected and removed at its earliest stages.  Becoming a positive statistic is possible when patients are screened for colon cancer regularly by their colorectal surgeon.

The Houston colorectal surgeons at Colorectal Surgical Associates use the latest technologies to remove precancerous and cancerous colon polyps, as well as many other colorectal disorders and diseases.  The use of advanced techniques in laparoscopic surgery enable these colorectal surgeons in Houston to provide optimum results and minimum side-effects when performing colon cancer surgery.