St. Mark's Hospital - March 06, 2019

Getting a colon cancer screening ranks right up there with organizing your garage or doing your taxes. Yet for those between the ages of 50 to 75, mak­ing time for this screening can prevent colorectal cancer or catch it early when it’s easier to treat suc­cessfully. Since March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’re challenging you to ask your doctor if it’s time for your colon cancer screening.

There are two types of colon cancer screening—visual exams and stool tests. The most common type of visual exam is the colonoscopy. This test looks for abnormalities by placing a scope (a thin, flexible lighted tube) in the rectum. If precancerous polyps are found, they can be removed during the colonoscopy. You’ll be under sedation for the test, and a full bowel prepara­tion will be necessary.

Other types of scoping or imaging tests can also be used to visually search for signs of cancer.

Another option is a stool-based test that analyzes fecal matter for traces of blood or other cancer markers. These tests are less invasive than visual exams but need to be done more often. They are only recommended for those with low or average risk for cancer.

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each test, but don’t delay. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.