Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US, but diagnosis rates have dropped over the past decades. This is because more people are getting screened to detect colon cancer when it’s most treatable. And, a simple colonoscopy helps prevent cancer from starting.
At Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, John Rivas, MD, provides colorectal cancer screenings to identify precancerous polyps, remove dangerous cells, and prevent colon cancer.
With the many types of colorectal screenings and new guidelines released recently, it may feel like a lot to keep up with. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide to steer you through the process of colorectal screenings. Keep reading to find out what you need to know.
What are the guidelines for screenings?
Your individual risk factors and family history impact when you need to get a colonoscopy. The recommended age for people with “average risk” to start regular screenings has been put forth by the American Cancer Society. They recommend starting regular screenings at 45 years, updated from their previous recommendation of 50 years.
If you have a higher risk of colorectal cancer, your provider may recommend screenings before age 45.
Adults 45-75 should have regular screenings every 3-10 years, depending on some factors. These include the results of prior screenings and the type of screening used, as well as any individual risk factors. After age 75, Dr. Rivas will individualize your screening frequency.
What are my options for screening?
There are several types of simple, safe, and essential types of colorectal cancer screening tests. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to tests, however, and Dr. Rivas can make the right recommendation for your unique situation.
At Rivas Digestive Center, you can choose from one of several types of stool tests, called fecal occult blood tests or a colonoscopy. While fecal tests interest many people since there is no preparation and can be completed at home, they are not as accurate as colonoscopies. This is because fecal tests detect blood, not cancer, and can’t identify polyps before they are cancerous.
So what does this mean? If you have a negative fecal test, it doesn’t guarantee you’re cancer-free. If you test positive for fecal blood, you will need a colonoscopy to check for the cause, which could be colon cancer or something else like an internal hemorrhoid.
Due to this uncertainty, Dr. Rivas uses a colonoscopy to detect colon cancer, the gold-standard in colorectal cancer screening.
Why is a colonoscopy the gold standard?
Colonoscopies are the gold standard for detecting colon cancer because they are the most effective way to find polyps and other signs of cancer.
Before the procedure, you drink a special liquid that clears your colon and allows Dr. Rivas to better detect any polyps or cancerous signs in your colon. You’ll take medicine at the appointment to make you comfortable during the procedure.
Dr. Rivas then examines the entire colon using a colonoscope. This is a thin, flexible tube inserted through your anus and rectum. Your large intestines are inflated with air to provide more visibility to the tissues and if a polyp or other growth is found, Dr. Rivas removes it with special tools and sends it for analysis at a lab.
You won’t feel any pain during the exam or when polyps or tissues are removed. You may feel bloated or gassy for the first hour after the colonoscopy, and you’ll need a ride home. But by the next day, you’ll be back to normal.
If you’d like to learn more about colorectal cancer screenings, don’t hesitate to set up a consultation with Dr. Rivas. Book online or give us a call at Rivas Digestive Center today.