Don't Be Afraid of Colorectal Cancer Screening
Just talking about a
But even more disturbing for many people is the thought of getting
Still, by definition, all screening tests are performed on people who feel fine except for the anxiety they have about their future health.
What about colorectal screening? Is the unpleasant prospect of having a colonoscopy or some other equally disagreeable procedure really worth it? For many of us, the answer is “yes”.
Screening Tests: What Do They Entail?
Colorectal screening tests are designed to detect cancer or fingerlike projections of tissue called
Here's what's involved with each screening test to detect polyps and colorectal cancer:
Fecal Occult Blood Test
Stool DNA Test
This is a non-invasive method of testing a specimen of stool (feces) for altered DNA which is shed by colon cancer or polyps into the stool. It is more expensive than fecal occult blood testing. The sensitivity for detecting cancer with this test is variable. One limitation is that this test does not detect all types of colon cancer.
Double-Contrast Barium Enema
Computed Tomography (CT) Colography
The American Cancer Society suggests that starting at age 50, men and women should be screened for colorectal cancer with one of the following options:
- flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years; or
- double-contrast barium enema every 5 years; or
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years; or
- colonoscopy every 10 years; or
- yearly fecal occult blood test (preferably the take-home, multiple sample method); or
- yearly fecal immunochemical test every year; or
- stool DNA test, interval uncertain.
However, people at increased risk of colorectal cancer may need to have some of these tests earlier in life and more often. Some reasons why you would be considered high risk are:
What Tests Do You Need?
Talk to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of each screening test, especially if your risk for colorectal cancer is greater than average. These tests may save your life.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health
Canadian Cancer Society
Colon Cancer Canada
American Cancer Society. American cancer society guidelines for the early detection of cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_2_3X_ACS_Cancer_Detection_Guidelines_36.asp. Updated March 3, 2010. Accessed April 2, 2010.
American Gastroenterological Association. Available at http://www.gastro.org/.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/.
Levin B, Lieberman DA, McFarland B, et al. Screening and surveillance for the early detection for colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps, 2008: a joint guidline from the American cancer society, the US multi-society task force on colorectal cancer, and the American college of radiology. Gastroenterology. 2008 Feb 8.
National Cancer Institute. Available at http://www.nci.nih.gov/.
United States Preventive Services Task Force. Available at http://www.ahcpr.gov.
Last reviewed April 2010 by
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