Colon cancer screenings play an important role in your overall health, providing your doctor with the ability to stop colorectal cancer from growing. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t get the life-saving screening they need — often because they don’t understand what’s involved.
At the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, our board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, offers a variety of colon cancer screenings to meet your needs, including traditional colonoscopies and less-invasive fecal tests.
By taking a few moments to learn more about colon cancer screenings and what you can expect at your appointment, you can put your mind at ease and feel confident that you’re taking an important step for your health.
What happens at a colon cancer screening?
What happens at your colorectal cancer screening depends on the type of screening method used. Dr. Rivas determines which type of screening is best for you based on your current symptoms, medical and family history, and lifestyle factors.
The different types of colon cancer screening methods include:
- Fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), a non-invasive test that can detect blood in your stool
- Stool DNA screening, a test that looks for evidence of abnormal (cancerous) DNA and blood in your stool
- Double-contrast barium enema, a test that uses X-ray technology to examine your colon for polyps (pre-cancerous growths) or tumors
- Colonoscopy, a minimally invasive screening method that uses a thin tube with a camera attached to detect polyps or tumors
Many of our patients ask about fecal tests and colonoscopies, so here’s a more detailed look at these two popular colon cancer screening methods:
Fecal occult blood screening: What to expect
Many patients ask about fecal occult blood screening tests because you don't have to prepare for them and you can complete the screening at home by collecting a small stool sample for lab analysis. You can expect to repeat this type of colon cancer screening every year.
It’s important to note that these tests aren’t as accurate as a colonoscopy since the presence of blood in the stool doesn’t mean you have colon cancer. In this case, Dr. Rivas performs additional testing and imaging studies, like a colonoscopy, to determine the root cause and remove any polyps found.
Colonoscopy: What to expect
When most people think of a colon cancer screening, they think of a colonoscopy. And there’s a good reason: Colonoscopies offer the best detection and protection against colorectal cancer. During this type of screening, Dr. Rivas can detect and remove polyps, helping to stop colorectal cancer from growing.
You can expect to follow some dietary restrictions the day before your procedure and take a special cleanse the day before and the day of your colonoscopy to help clear out your colon for the procedure. It’s important to follow these instructions carefully for optimal screening results.
Dr. Rivas and the team give you some medication to keep you comfortable and asleep during this safe and simple screening. Once you’re ready, he uses a special camera to examine your colon for any signs of colorectal cancer.
Once your colonoscopy is complete, you’ll rest in recovery, then talk to Dr. Rivas about the results of your screening. Most of our patients return home quickly and can resume routine activities once the medications wear off (usually within a few hours).
How often do I need colon cancer screenings?
All adults 45-75 should be screened regularly (every 5-10 years depending on individual factors) for colon cancer. If you have additional risk factors that increase your chances of getting colon cancer, you may need to start screenings earlier or have them more frequently.
The best way to learn how frequently you need a colon cancer screening is by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Rivas to discuss your health and family history. Research shows that in addition to being 45 or older, your risk increases if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Eat red and processed meats
- Have a sedentary lifestyle
- Drink alcohol
- Smoke or use tobacco products
- Have a personal history of GI health issues
- Have a family history of colorectal cancer
- Have an inherited gene linked to colorectal cancer
- Are in poor overall health
Your risk of developing colorectal cancer also goes up if you have type 2 diabetes, have been diagnosed and/or treated for all other types of cancer, or have had radiation therapy.
Learn more about what to expect at your colon cancer screening by contacting Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida. Call our team at 954-228-5882 or schedule an appointment using our online booking tool to get started.