Colon Cancer Screening & Prevention
Colon cancer can be prevented. Detection and removal of polyps (the precursors to colon cancer) by screening colonoscopy has been shown to prevent cancer. The majority of colorectal cancers could have been prevented if appropriate colorectal screening was carried through. Most polyps and early cancers do not cause symptoms. In fact, most colon cancers do not cause symptoms until they are very large. The preferred test for colon cancer screening is colonoscopy because it is not only diagnostic, but also therapeutic (by removal of polyps – and thereby prevention of colon cancer).
When should you be screened for colorectal cancer?
- All individuals who are average risk and not African American should have a screening colonoscopy beginning age 50, then every 10 years if no cancers or polyps are found.
- African Americans have a higher risk of colorectal cancer. A screening colonoscopy is recommended beginning age 45 then every 10 years if no polyps or cancers are found.
- A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps suggests a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy at age 40 or 10 years before the youngest affected relative.
- Cancer in several close relatives may suggest your family carries a hereditary cancer syndrome. Individuals with colorectal cancer or various other cancers such as uterine or ovarian cancer in several close relatives, especially if cancers occurred at a young age, should have genetic counseling and potentially genetic testing to exclude the possibility of inherited forms of colorectal cancer such as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). It may be recommended that colon cancer screening begin in the teens’ or 20’s for families who are at risk for one of these inherited cancer syndromes.
- Polyps detected at the time of colonoscopy may put you at risk for developing new polyps or cancer. Individuals who have a polyp detected should have repeat colonoscopies every 3 to 5 years.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn’s disease(CD) may put you at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Individuals with a diagnosis of UC or CD with severe inflammation of the colon or rectum should have a colonoscopy with biopsies 8 years after initial diagnosis then every 2 years.
- Women with a personal history of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer may have a higher risk of colon cancer and should have a colonoscopy starting age 40 then every 5 years.
Do not wait to be screened. Colon cancer is preventable. Call to make an appointment with Dr. Zaghiyan to discuss your screening options and any symptoms you are experiencing.