Five Things to Know About Colon Cancer Screening

Screening and Prevention

Learn more about Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. In most cases, though, it takes 10 years for a pre-cancerous polyp to turn into cancer, and cases can be caught early with proper screening. UW Carbone Cancer Center gastrointestinal oncologist Sam Lubner, MD, lists five important things to know about colon cancer screening and prevention for people who are at normal risk for the disease. Each individual is different, however, so it is important to discuss your risk and screening schedule with your doctor.


1. Optical ("regular") colonoscopy screenings should start at age 50 and be done every 10 years or until age 75

"The process by which normal colon turns into cancer takes about 10 years. With the median age of colon cancer being around 70, it makes sense for people with a normal risk to start the screening interval in their 50s to find the pre-cancers before they have a chance to turn into cancer."


2. Some people need earlier or more frequent screening

"Anyone who has Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease should discuss earlier screening with their doctor. In addition, anyone with a first-degree relative should be screened at age 40 or 10 years before the age his or her relative was diagnosed, whichever is earlier. Anyone with a genetic diagnosis of hereditary colon cancer or Lynch Syndrome should start screening as early as adolescence. Lastly, the fastest growing population of patients with colorectal cancer are in the too-young-to-be-screened population. So anyone with blood in the stool, especially persistent blood in the stool, abdominal pain or unexplained weight loss should discuss their symptoms with their primary care provider."


3. There is more than one way to look at the inside of a colon

"There is the common optical colonoscopy and virtual colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy is a fancy 3D reconstruction of a CT scan where, after a bowel-cleaning prep, radiologists send air (carbon dioxide) through the colon and fly through it in a virtual way to find polyps. What’s really cool is, in UW Health’s system, you can go, with the same prep, from a virtual colonoscopy in the morning to an optical colonoscopy in the afternoon. You’re not having two preps."


4. Colon cancer screening does not always require a colonoscopy

"Stool-based tests are non-invasive options that don’t require a prep. Older technology looks for blood in the stool that would otherwise not be seen (occult blood, or FOBT). Cologuard™ is a newer test which provides an analysis of fecal DNA looking for cancers or precancerous problems. Both of these tests can be done at home, with specimens mailed into a central laboratory. If either of these screens come up as positive, it is important to know that an optical colonoscopy must be used as a final diagnostic step."


5. It’s healthy to talk about poop

"From a purely preventive strategy, it’s best to simply have regular contact with your primary care provider and a consistent relationship with them. Talk about poop with your doctor! It’s better to talk about concerns with your poop than about cancer."



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Date Published: 02/22/2017

News tag(s):  sam j lubnerAdvances

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