Colorectal cancer rarely causes symptoms during the initial stages. This means early detection is crucial for the best chances of successful treatment. Colorectal cancer almost always starts as growths called polyps. This growth begins in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps have the potential to grow into cancer if they go undetected long enough.
The good news is that regular colon cancer screening, such as a colonoscopy, can detect polyps before they can become cancer. If found during a routine screening, your provider can remove them.
Board-certified internal medicine physician Prabhdeep Singh, MD, wants patients to know the importance of regular colorectal cancer screening. There are multiple types of screenings available, and they save lives. You can discuss colorectal health with Dr. Singh and get individualized recommendations for screening and keeping your colon healthy.
Colon cancer affects men and women equally. Here’s what you should know about screening to protect your colon health.
When to start screening for colon cancer
Rates of colorectal cancer are not only on the rise but also striking people at a younger age. In the past, the American Cancer Society recommended that you begin screening for colon cancer at age 50. Updated guidelines now recommend that people with average risk begin regular screening at the 45. Those at risk for colon cancer should screen earlier.
What puts you at risk?
Talk to your doctor about when to begin colorectal cancer screening if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A history of colon polyps
- A family history of colon cancer
- Overweight or obesity
- Tobacco use
- Low fiber diet
- Diet high in processed meat
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- History of radiation to the abdomen
If you’re at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, discuss which screening is right for you and how often to test.
How often to screen for colorectal cancer
How often you screen for colorectal cancer depends on the screening your doctor recommends and your risk factors. The following are the most common screening tests for colorectal cancer and how often a person with average risk should schedule a screening.
Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) detects blood in the stool using the chemical guaiac. In contrast, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool. Both the gFOBT and FIT tests are performed yearly.
FIT-DNA test (also known as the stool DNA test) combines the FIT with a stool DNA test to detect changes in DNA. It’s performed once every three years.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is a screening that looks at the lower part of the colon using a thin, flexible tube. It’s done every five years or every ten years if a FIT is performed yearly.
Colonoscopy looks at the entire colon and is the most common colon cancer screening. This screening is performed every ten years if you’re at average risk.
CT Colonography, also known as a virtual colonoscopy, involves using X-rays and computers to create images of the entire colon. It’s done every five years.
Dr. Singh will discuss which test is best for your situation.
Making colorectal screening a top priority is an excellent way to protect your colon health. Dr. Singh can help ensure you get the right screening at the right time.
To discuss your colon health or to schedule a colorectal screening, call our El Centro, California office to schedule a visit with Dr. Singh.