When Was Your Last Colon Cancer Screening?
Cancer that begins in the rectum or the colon is called colorectal cancer, or colon cancer for short. It affects all ethnic and racial types equally, but it is most common in people over the age of 50. It’s the third most common cancer in both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Colon cancer screening is designed to detect the early signs of the disease and eliminate them. The most common source of colon cancer is polyps — abnormal growths in the rectum and colon. These are removed during the screening process, virtually eliminating the risk. When those polyps have already turned cancerous, screening leads to quick treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nine out of ten people who had colon cancer detected early are still alive after five years.
When to Start
Typically, colon cancer screening begins at age 50, unless the Upper East Side NYC gastroenterologist places you at a higher risk. The Mayo Clinic recommends that African-Americans and American Indians begin screening at age 45. You might need to start screenings earlier if you have:
- A genetic disorder such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- A close relative with colon cancer or a history of polyps
Stick to a Schedule
Dr. Khodadadian can provide you with an appropriate schedule for colon cancer screening based on your history and current health condition. Traditionally, tests are ordered:
- Every five years for a flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Every five years for a colonoscopy
- Every five years for a double-contrast barium enema
When polyps are present, the NYC GI doctor most likely will set you on a three or five-year colonoscopy schedule. Other tests, such as a fecal test or stool DNA test that show positive results for cancer, also may trigger one of the proven methods of determining the disease, regardless of your schedule.
Symptoms That May Trigger a Screening
Pay attention to your colon-screening schedule to remain healthy and cancer-free. At the same time, report symptoms that could signal the beginning signs of colon cancer. Your doctor easily can find the source of your concern and begin the appropriate treatment sooner rather than later by using one of the screening methods. Early signs of colon cancer include:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stools
- Unexplained weight loss
- Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation
- Change in stool consistency
- Weakness or fatigue
- Persistent bowel pain like cramps or gas
Prevent Colon Cancer
Screening is the most effective prevention tool available, although you also can reduce your risks of developing colon cancer with a few lifestyle modifications:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Eat a variety of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy weight
About Dr. Shawn Khodadadian
Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, a best in class board certified Upper East Side NYC gastroenterologist (GI doctor). He is a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas and gall bladder.