Take five minutes to stay cancer free

DR. D art Colon3

Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. But it is also one of the easiest cancers to prevent and treat, provided you have regular screenings. Discuss screening recommendations with your doctor—who will take things like family history, diet and lifestyle into account. According to the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, if everyone aged 50 or older had recurring screening tests, at least 60% of deaths from colon cancer could be avoided. People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently.

Precancerous polyps and early-stage colon cancer don’t always cause symptoms, which is why screening tests are important. Even if colon cancer has already developed, the Colon Cancer Alliance states that finding and treating it before symptoms are present result in a greater than 90% treatment success. Common colon cancer symptoms can include repeated bouts of cramping, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting; frequent bloody stools; diarrhea or constipation that lasts more than a few days or sudden and unexpected weight loss, then consult your physician.

The colonoscopy has been the standard screening test to check for cancer or pre-cancerous growths known as polyps. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine using a colonoscope, a thin and flexible tube with an attached small video camera.

But people find preparation for a colonoscopy to be more difficult than the procedure. Colonoscopies require drinking a special solution or taking pills that empty out your bowels. You also need to restrict your food intake to a clear liquid diet, stop certain medications and stay home since you will frequently use the bathroom throughout the day.

The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is a newer non-invasive test for colon cancer. It’s done in the privacy of your home, requires no changes to diet or medication, doesn’t require any liquids or pills and takes only a few minutes. FIT is a screening test that uses a stool sample to detect colorectal cancer and pre-cancer. You do the test at home using a kit that you get at your doctor’s office (or pharmacy? Or mail? Which method does Dr. S. use?) You follow the kit’s enclosed instructions, collect a stool sample and (return it to Doc? Mail it to lab in pre-paid envelope?)

How does FIT work? Your colon sheds cells on a daily basis. These cells include both normal and abnormal cells that your stool picks up as it passes through your colon. FIT detects the DNA and blood released from any abnormal cells in your stool. A positive FIT result indicates abnormal bleeding in the lower digestive tract. Since this test detects only human blood, other sources of blood, such as from the diet, do not cause a false positive.

 

FIT is one of many tests used to screen for colon cancer. Which screening test you choose depends on your risk, preference and doctor. Have questions about what puts you at risk for colon cancer or which screening test is best for you? Contact our offices at 614.299.9909.