Colorectal cancer (colon cancer) and colonoscopy – all you need to know

A Colonoscopy – Best Test Available in Screening for Colon Cancer

Did you know that every individual has a six percent risk of developing colon cancer over his or her lifetime – regardless of sex, race or family history.

The most effective tool in preventing colorectal (colon) cancer as well as address other disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is used to look at the large intestine. It is most commonly used to look for colon cancer or precancerous polyps – and is the best test we have for screening for colon cancer.

And a colonoscopy is the only test that can both find and remove polyps at the same time.

A colonoscopy is also used to address:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    • Crohn’s Disease
    • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Other disorders of the large intestine
  • Symptoms
    • Rectal Bleeding
    • Abdominal Pain

The colonoscopy is a very effective and non invasive diagnostic tool to determine the state of the colon and detect polyps and other irregularities. A colonoscope is used to perform the procedure. This is a flexible tube with a camera and light at the end. There is also a channel in the center of the colonoscope – through which instruments can be maneuvered should a biopsy be required. Dials allow a broad range of movement.

Preparing for a colonoscopy entails thorough colon cleansing, which includes “bowel prep.” A clear bowel will yield the best results. Eating before the procedure may result in a cancellation, as a clear colon is critical for safety purposes and an effective outcome.
This outpatient procedure is performed under sedation.

If the colonoscopy is scheduled for screening purposes only, your doctor is searching for polyps. If patients are experiencing rectal bleeding or diarrhea or abdominal pain, your doctor will look for a source of this. Hear more about Colonoscopy.


An Upper Endoscopy

Upper Endoscopy allows the doctor to review the lining of the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract including the esophagus, stomach and duodenum or first portion of the small intestine). During this procedure the doctor uses an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end which transfers images to a TV-type of monitor that is easy for the doctor to see).

The procedure is referred to as upper GI endoscopic or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). This is a safe, effective way to see inside the upper GI tract.

It can also be used to treat conditions once previously requiring surgery. New endoscopic technology permits it to assess not only the upper GI tract but also diagnose and treat conditions of the liver and pancreas – with advanced equipment.

Some of the other conditions for which an Upper Endoscopy is used to identify and treat include:

  • Chronic upper abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Barrett’s Esophagus
  • Ciliac’s Disease
  • Inflammation
  • Ulcers
  • Tumors

What to Expect Before, During and After
Very little preparation is required before an Upper Endoscopy. There is a special diet to follow the day of procedure (no solid food but clear liquids up to three to four hours before) to ensure a clear GI tract. This outpatient procedure is performed with sedation and generally lasts about one hour.

Using an endoscope through the mouth the esophagus and stomach can be thoroughly assessed.

If tissue was removed and sent for a biopsy, results will be available in just a few days. Patients are encouraged to wait until the next day to return to normal activity.

Every medical procedure comes with some risks and those associated with a colonoscopy include:

  • Tear in the lining of the GI tract
  • Bleeding
  • Breathing Problems
  • Bad reaction to medication used in sedation

More about Upper Endoscopy.

Myths About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer, or Colon Cancer, is the second leading cancer killer of men and women in the US, though according to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy is largely preventable with early screening and is curable with early detection.

Common misconceptions about Colorectal Cancer and Screening:

  • Colon cancer primarily affects men
  • No need to be screened unless you experience a problem
  • Colon cancer cannot be treated
  • Screening is required only if you have a family history

The Facts about Colorectal Cancer and Screening:

  • Screening should begin at age 50 – even in the absence of symptoms and family history of colon cancer, as age is the single most important risk factor.
  • Only 10-20 percent of those diagnosed with colon cancer have a family history of colon cancer. Most have no family history.
  • If polyps are removed in preventative screening, colon cancer can be prevented.
  • If colon cancer is diagnosed early, it is 90 percent curable.

Warning Signs of Colorectal Cancer

  • Blood in Stool or changes in Stool
  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Change in Bowel Pattern
  • Unexplained Weight Loss

Many of the warning signs for colorectal cancer may also be symptoms of benign conditions such as here are a number of things you can do to decrease your risk including regular exercise and a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. Behavior which increases your risk include consuming a high fat diet, smoking and excessive alcohol use.

A referral is generally not required for a colonoscopy and is covered by insurance, including Medicare.

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