Colon Cancer Screening
Colon Cancer Screening
Colon cancer (also referred to as colorectal cancer) is preventable and curable, but in the beginning there are no symptoms. If colon cancer is caught in its earliest stages, it can be cured 90 to 100% of the time.
Prevention is also possible. Colorectal cancer can be prevented through proper diet and removal of pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.
However, to prevent this disease or discover it in its earliest stages, patients need to participate in the screening process. There are several methods to screen patients for colon cancer. Your physician will assist you in determining which of these the best are for you.
What screening tests are available?
We recommend three screening tests. You can talk to our medical staff about which is right for you and how often you should be tested:
- Fecal Occult Blood Test or Stool Test: This take-home test checks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool, which may indicated the presence of polyps. This test should be done every year.
- Colonoscopy: The colonoscopy is considered to be the “gold standard,” or the most effective colorectal cancer screening test. A long, flexible tube with a tiny camera is used to examine the inside of the colon and rectum, to find and remove polyps or cancer. This test is usually done every 10 years. [Learn more about Colonoscopies.]
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (SIG-moy-DAH-skuh-pee) enables the physician to look at the inside of the large intestine, from the rectum through the last part of the colon, called the sigmoid — or descending colon. Physicians may use the procedure to find the cause of diarrhea, abdominal pain, or constipation. They also use it to look for early signs of cancer in the descending colon and rectum. With flexible sigmoidoscopy, the physician can see bleeding, inflammation, abnormal growths, and ulcers in the descending colon and rectum. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is not sufficient to detect polyps or cancer in the ascending or transverse colon (two-thirds of the colon).
Will insurance pay for colonoscopies?
Medicare and many insurance plans are now required to pay for Colonoscopies for people age 50 and over, or earlier if risk factors demonstrate a need. Contact Kansas Medical Clinic 785-354-8518 or the Endoscopy Center of Topeka at 785-354-1254 to find out more about pricing and insurance coverage.
Who should be screened?
Patients who are at average risk for colon cancer are characterized by the following:
- No family history of colon cancer.
- Lack of symptoms (change in bowel habits, evidence of bleeding from the rectum, thinning of the diameter of the stool and abdominal pain).
- Tests for hidden blood in the stool are negative (fecal occult blood test).
- Rectal exam shows no masses.
For an average risk patient, a screening colonoscopy is recommended after the age of 50. This is an examination of the colon with a videoscope so the physician can see any abnormalities, such as a polyp or a cancer. At the time of the colonoscopy, polyps can be removed to prevent a cancer from developing.
If a person is in a high-risk category for colon cancer, then a colonoscopy may be performed sooner then age 50. Any person with a first degree relative who has had colon cancer (i.e. parent, sibling) should have a colonoscopy approximately ten years prior to the age of diagnosis of that particular relative.
Eat Right – Prevent Cancer
If we would all eat the way our mothers and grandmothers told us to, we’d have a much lower risk of developing colon cancer in the first place.
A high-fiber, low-fat diet can reduce your chances of developing polyps. Of course, the only proven way to prevent colorectal cancer is to have regular screenings to find and remove polyps. But when you combine regular screening with a healthy lifestyle, you benefit even more. A diet that’s high in fiber and low in fat can promote regular bowel function, thereby reducing the amount of time any cancer-causing substance is in contact with the colon lining and diluting the concentration of cancer-causing substances.
More than half of all colorectal cancers could be prevented if everyone followed these healthy tips:
- Be physically active.
- Eat fruits and vegetables.
- Take calcium supplements
- Eat less red meat.
- Take one aspirin a day. (Check with your doctor first!)
- Don’t smoke.
There are other benefits to a high fiber diet, too. When you eat more fiber, you feel full faster, which means you eat less (that’s better for your weight) and you lower your cholesterol (which is better for your heart). Fiber-rich foods also help improve constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and diverticultis.