Colon Cancer The Importance of Screening and Testing

by | Jul 2, 2024 | Health and Medical

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Screening, testing, and diagnosing of colon cancer is generally done through a procedure known as colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is a procedure performed by gastroenterologists under mild sedation in a GI clinic or lab. Gastroenterologists are physicians who specialize in evaluating, testing, and diagnosing disorders of the digestive system. Colon cancer is routinely screened for, generally after the age of 50, as part of regular medical care.

According to the American Cancer Association, colon cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States every year. Even more disarming, colon cancer is also one of the most highly curable cancers if detected early by colonoscopy or other imaging techniques. Doctors are now fairly certain that most types of colon cancers begin in the colon or the rectum. These are the two organs in the digestive system that are specifically examined by the gastroenterologist during a colonoscopy for signs of colon cancer.

The American Cancer Society says that there is no one individual culprit for developing colon cancer, and that most colon cancers are believed to grow from small polyps found in the colon and rectum that develop over time. Removal of these polyps can actually be done during a routine colonoscopy if the gastroenterologist performing the procedure can see them. When they are removed, they are sent to the lab for biopsy. Oftentimes polyps removed during a colonoscopy procedure are discovered to be benign. Removing them prevents them from evolving into cancerous cells over time.

Understanding your family history and your risks for developing colon cancer are important to early prevention, detection, and intervention. Having a family history of colon cancer significantly increases your own personal risk for developing colon cancers later in life. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may want to begin your colonoscopy screenings at age 40 rather than waiting until age 50. You should thoroughly discuss your family history, as well as your own signs and symptoms, with your physician so that together you can make an educated and decisive plan for how and when to best screen for early cancer detection.

Your health care is a partnership between you, your doctor, and the specialists such as gastroenterologists. If you are at increased risk for the development of colon cancers in the Houston area, look for a gastroenterologist with several years of experience, and always be proactive rather than reactive when addressing your own health needs.