Colorectal cancer or colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. Fortunately, it is very treatable when caught early, and it is one of the few cancers than can be prevented before it ever starts. Because most colon cancers start out as polyps, which are small growths in the lining of the colon, they can be removed easily to prevent the polyps from growing and turning into cancers.
It is important to check for polyps regularly because they do not cause any symptoms and it has been found that during a routine screening exam, 1 of 5 people will have a polyp. It is recommended that routine screenings begin at age 50, or at age 45 for African American men, but the recommended age may change to 45 for everyone because colon cancer is being seen more often in younger people. Anyone with a family history of colon cancer or polyps in a first degree relative (parent or sibling) should start getting screened at the age of 40.
There are several options available for colon cancer screening.
• Colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” because it is the most accurate and allows for removal of polyps at the time the colonoscopy is performed. If normal, it may not need to be repeated for 10 years.
• Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a shorter version of a colonoscopy that only looks at certain parts of the colon and rectum. When flexible sigmoidoscopy is combined with a stool test to look for blood, it is accurate for 5 years if normal.
• Cologuard is a stool test that looks for blood in the stool and also looks for the DNA that is shed by polyps. It can be repeated in 3 years if nothing is found.
• Other options for screening include: barium enema and CT colonography that can be used in some cases.
If you are over the age of 45, the first step is to discuss colon cancer with your doctor and see which screening option is best for you.
About Dr. Jacqueline Kaiser
Dr. Jacqueline Kaiser is a board-certified Colon and Rectal Surgeon in Winter Park, Florida. After receiving her medical degree, Dr. Kaiser completed a five year general surgery residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital and then a Colon and Rectal Fellowship at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Dr. Kaiser has been in private practice for 22 years. For more information about Dr. Kaiser, click here!