Colonoscopy 101 with Katrina Burgos, PA-C
March is colorectal cancer awareness month, so let’s go over a few basics about colon cancer and screening guidelines.
How prevalent is colon cancer?
Although rates of colon cancer in the US are going down, it remains the third leading cause of cancer mortality for both men and women. More than 56,000 Americans die from CRC each year, and more than 140,000 new cases will be diagnosed.
What are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?
Symptoms of colon cancer can vary, but may include blood in stool, significant change in bowel habits, feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowel, or unexplained weight loss. Blood tests may show anemia or low iron levels. Keep in mind that many patients do not show any symptoms suggestive of colon cancer.
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
Exact cause for colon cancer is unknown, but it is likely caused by both inherited and lifestyle factors. Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are at higher risk for developing. Anyone who has Crohn’s or UC is also at higher risk and needs to be screened earlier and more often. Cigarette smoking and obesity are also risk factors. About 75% of patients who are newly diagnosed for colon cancer had no known risk factors.
How do I check for colon cancer?
At Bellbrook Family Practice, we recommend either colonoscopy or the Cologuard at-home test beginning at age 45. This is a new guideline by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in 2021 that lowered screening from age 50 to age 45 in order to improve colon cancer detection. Colonoscopy requires a referral to a gastroenterologist, and prep is performed to clean out the bowel beforehand. This is a procedure that allows the entire colon and rectum to be directly visualized. If any polyps are present, they are removed and sent for biopsy. If normal, doctors recommend to get this done every 10 years. The Cologuard at-home test allows patients to do a stool test in the comfort of their own home, and it is fairly sensitive to picking up on early changes associated with CRC. If normal, this needs to be done every 3 years.
What can I do to prevent colon cancer?
Prevention is the best medicine. Ask your provider at Bellbrook about individualized recommendations for you based on your personal and family history. Practice a healthy lifestyle by avoiding cigarette smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regularly screened for colon cancer.
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force