What Is Colon Cancer Screening?

Colon cancer screening refers to specific tests used to detect colon cancer before you have symptoms. Your screening can be done with two types of testing: stool-based tests and a colonoscopy. Stool-based tests detect the presence of blood in your stool, which could come from colon cancer or several other health conditions. If a stool test is positive for blood, you still need to have a colonoscopy to determine if you have cancer.

When Do I Need a Colon Cancer Screening?

Healthy adults with an average risk of colon cancer should start screening at the age of 45. If you’re at a higher risk of developing colon cancer, your doctor at Peak Gastroenterology Associates may recommend an earlier screening.

How Does a Colonoscopy Screen for Colon Cancer?

Nearly all colon cancers originate in colon polyps. Colonoscopies screen for colon cancer by allowing your doctor to find and remove polyps. Though polyps are benign or noncancerous when they first appear, their DNA can change, becoming cancerous over time. When all the polyps are removed, you prevent colon cancer.

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What Causes Colon Cancer?

Though the exact cause of colon cancer hasn’t been identified, medical experts believe that most cases develop due to acquired genetic mutations. This type of mutation occurs as lifestyle factors influence genetic activity. The key risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diets high in red meat and processed meat
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes

Your risk of developing colon cancer also increases as you get older if you have inflammatory bowel disease or if you have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps. About 5 percent of people who develop colon cancer have inherited gene mutations associated with family cancer syndromes.

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Importance of Colorectal Cancer Screening

What Symptoms Develop if I Have Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer rarely causes symptoms until it progresses to an advanced stage. When symptoms develop, you may experience:

  • Blood in stools
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss

Cancerous polyps bleed, and the ongoing blood loss may lead to anemia.

What Should I Expect During a Colonoscopy?

When you have a colonoscopy, your doctor at Peak Gastroenterology Associates guides a narrow, flexible tube through your large intestine. The tube, called a colonoscope, contains lighting and a video camera that sends images of the intestine to a monitor.

While viewing the intestinal wall, your doctor looks for signs of inflammation and polyps. Every polyp is removed and sent to a lab where the tissues are examined for signs of cancer. Your colonoscopy takes 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of polyps.

If you need to schedule a colon cancer screening, call Peak Gastroenterology Associates or use the online booking feature.

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