Colon Cancer Screening in Connecticut

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What is a screening for colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer ranks as the third most frequently diagnosed cancer. Fortunately, it's also among the most preventable. The colon and rectum, which together form the large intestine, play a key role in absorbing water and nutrients from digested food and storing solid waste until it's expelled.

Colon cancer screening is a procedure that checks for polyps and cancerous growths on the inner walls of the colon and rectum, even when no gastrointestinal symptoms are present. Polyps are benign growths that can potentially turn cancerous over time. Early detection and removal of these polyps and tumors can significantly lower the risk of severe complications and mortality from colon cancer.

At Connecticut GI, our board-certified gastroenterologists specialize in performing colon cancer screenings. We recommend that everyone starts screening at age 45. To schedule your screening appointment, reach out to a Connecticut GI location near you.

Routine colon and rectal cancer screenings are crucial for maintaining overall and gastrointestinal health. While various screening methods exist, such as stool testing, a colonoscopy remains the primary colorectal prevention strategy. The benefits of colorectal cancer screenings include:

  • Early detection of colon or rectal cancer
  • Potential prevention of colon cancer development
  • Identification and removal of polyps in the colon and rectum
  • Detection of other gastrointestinal issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • Life-saving potential

Colon cancer often shows no signs or symptoms until it is advanced. Regular screenings enable your doctor to identify any concerns or conditions at the earliest possible stage.

What are the available colon cancer screening options?

Discussing with your GI doctor when to start screening and which tests to undergo is essential. Colon cancer screening may involve one or more of the following tests:

  • Colonoscopy: This procedure uses a long, flexible tube with a camera (a colonoscope) to examine the entire colon's inner wall. Inserted through the rectum, it allows the doctor to see the colon on a monitor. Special tools can be used to take biopsies and remove polyps. Sedation is required, and there is a slight risk of bowel tears, bleeding, or infection. It's also the only comprehensive colorectal prevention method.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Similar to a colonoscopy but shorter, this procedure uses a sigmoidoscope to view the rectum and lower colon. The device, inserted through the rectum, provides images on a monitor. It can also take biopsies and remove some polyps, though a colonoscopy is needed to view the entire colon and remove all polyps or tumors. It's generally safe, with minor risks of bowel tear, bleeding, and infection.
  • Fecal test: Safe and noninvasive, fecal tests analyze a stool sample for signs of gastrointestinal abnormalities. Positive results may indicate cancerous growths, necessitating a follow-up colonoscopy. Three types of fecal tests are
    • Fecal occult blood test: Detects hidden blood in the stool via a chemical reaction.
    • Fecal immunochemical test: Identifies hidden blood through an immunochemical reaction specific to a protein in the blood.
    • Stool DNA test: Looks for abnormal DNA genes from cancerous growths or polyps in the stool sample.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: This noninvasive CT scan creates cross-sectional images of the colon. No sedation is required, but any detected abnormalities will require a traditional colonoscopy for removal.
  • Double-contrast barium enema: Involves inserting a small tube into the rectum and filling the colon with a barium sulfate suspension and air. X-rays are then taken to detect abnormalities. If any are found, a colonoscopy is needed to remove them.

These screening options provide various ways to detect and prevent colon cancer. Regular screenings can help identify issues early, improving outcomes and health.

Who could be at risk for colon cancer?

Understanding who is at risk for colon cancer can help in taking preventive measures. Various factors contribute to a higher risk, including:

  • Individuals over 45 years of age
  • Those with a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and who smoke
  • People with a personal history of colon cancer
  • Those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • People with inherited familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition causing numerous polyps in the colon and rectum
  • Women with a previous history of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
  • Individuals with close family members, such as parents, siblings, or children, who have or had colon cancer

Recognizing these risk factors can guide you and your healthcare provider in making informed decisions about screening and prevention.

Schedule a colon cancer screening today

Regular screenings are key to detecting and preventing colon cancer in its early stages. If you are over 45 or have conditions that increase your risk, consider scheduling your colon cancer screening at your local Connecticut GI location. At Connecticut GI, we prioritize patient care and use the latest technology to enhance digestive health. To learn more about colon cancer screenings, contact Connecticut GI today.

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Why is having routine colon cancer screenings important?

Colon cancer typically starts from growths in the large intestine (colon) or rectum known as polyps. During a colonoscopy, these premalignant growths can be removed to help reduce the risk of and possibly prevent the development of this cancer. Having regular screenings for colon cancer can also allow doctors to diagnose cancer that is already present. If colorectal cancer is detected in the early stages, it can be simpler to address.

At what age should I begin undergoing colon cancer screenings?

Individuals who have an average risk for colon cancer should begin having routine screenings for colorectal cancer upon turning age 45. People who carry a higher risk might require earlier screenings. Your GI specialist can help you determine at what age you should begin undergoing screenings for colorectal cancer.

How often should you get a colon cancer screening?

The frequency with which people should undergo colon cancer exams may depend on the type of test being performed. Typically, adults who are 45 and over should undergo a colonoscopy screening every decade when they are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer and experience colonoscopy results that are within normal limits. Individuals who carry a significantly high risk are advised to have colonoscopy exams a minimum of once every five years. To determine how frequently you should arrange for screening exams for colorectal cancer, please speak with your GI doctor.

How can I prep for a colorectal cancer screening?

The best method of prepping for a colon cancer screening will vary according to the type of screening scheduled. With a colonoscopy screening, detailed instructions on how to prepare, including how to clear out your bowel, will be provided by your GI team before your scheduled procedure. Your doctor may also provide other instructions to follow in the days prior to your exam. It is imperative to follow your provider's instructions to help ensure they can find any areas of concern during your screening.

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