According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults over 50 choose not to get screened for colorectal cancer, leaving up to 23 million Americans at risk for the disease (without even knowing it).
That’s not good news, considering that a regular colonoscopy, which screen for early pre-cancerous polyps, can prevent up to 40% of colon cancer diagnosis and save your life.
So, what’s the problem? Are you a little scared? You shouldn’t be, really.
With March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to get checked out for a preventive cancer screening.
To help you face your colon cancer screening fears, here is an informational overview of the three main types of tests so you know what to expect.
Colon Cancer Screening Test #1 – Colonoscopy: This test allows your physician to see the inside of your entire colon and the lining of your rectum. It detects small polyps, large polyps and early-stage cancers, and it’s one of the best ways to reduce the risk of developing or dying from colorectal cancer.
Before your colonoscopy, you drink some medicine that cleans out your colon by causing temporary diarrhea. Then you take a mild sedative. During the procedure, the doctor uses a thin, lighted tube to view the inside of your colon and rectum, and potentially remove small polyps or cancers. (But don’t worry, you’ve had a sedative. You’re pretty much out of it.)
Colon Cancer Screening Test #2 – Sigmoidoscopy: This test is a little less comprehensive than the colonoscopy – it only gives the doctor a look at your rectum and the lower part of your colon (about half the total area of the rectum and the colon). It identifies polyps and cancers in this lower area only. And, it’s an excellent way to identify and treat these cancers before they get serious.
A sigmoidoscopy works similarly to colonoscopy, with the doctor examining your insides via a lighted tube in your rectum. The good news about the sigmoidoscopy is that you don’t need a sedative and you’re able to go back to work the same day. The bad news? In order to clean out your lower bowels before the procedure, you need a clear liquid diet and an enema.
Colon Cancer Screening Test #3 – CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): If you’re afraid of the lighted tube, this preventive cancer test is for you. The doctor simply uses a CT scanner to take images of your bowel. There’s no sedation, no invasive tubing, and almost no fuss. (You still have to clean out your bowels first, though.)
There are a few downsides to a virtual colonoscopy. It’s not covered by many types of health insurance. If the test detects something abnormal, you’ll have to go back and have a regular colonoscopy and biopsy. And, like many other imaging tests, it does expose you to radiation, which is a cancer risk factor.
To find out more information about colorectal cancer tests and how often you should get screened, read these recommendations from the American Cancer Society.
Please remember, a colon cancer screening test can prevent cancer and save your life. Colon Cancer Awareness Month this March is a good time to face your fears and get checked.
For more information about colon cancer facts, risk factors and prevention tips, click to read this article.
Talk to us in the comments! Have you been screened for colon cancer? What was your experience? Do you have an appointment scheduled to get tested?
(Image via Huffington Post.)