Screening tests are given to patients to look for polyps or the presence of colon cancer. These tests are administered to those patients who are exhibiting symptoms as well as those that may be at risk for developing the disease. In some cases, these tests help to find polyps so that they can be removed before they become cancer. The most widely used screening test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy requires that a physician use a lighted tube called a colonoscope to examine the rectum and colon. This procedure is used to detect and remove any polyps that could possibly turn into cancer. If anything looks suspicious, a biopsy may be done as well. The physician is able to remove a small piece of tissue through the colonoscope and send it to the lab for further testing.
During the procedure, patients are given a light sedative and occasionally, pain medication to keep them relaxed. The physician then inserts the colonoscope through the rectum into the colon. The scope inflates the colon with carbon dioxide so that the doctor has a better view. A small camera mounted on the scope transmits an image of the intestine to a computer screen. This allows the doctor to fully examine the intestinal lining.
Thorough cleansing of your colon is required the day before your procedure. Your doctor will give you medicine to take that will clear your colon and rectum. A colonoscopy typically takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete. The effects of the sedative wear off a few hours after the procedure and full recovery is expected by the next day.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people 50 and over should receive a routine colonoscopy. Those patients with a family history or other risk factors may need to be examined earlier. Your physician will advise you on when to schedule a colonoscopy.
Since most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp, it is crucial that men and women 50 and older are screened regularly. Early detection and removal of polyps can greatly increase your chance of survival from colon cancer. If your physician tells you it is time, don’t put it off any longer. Schedule your colonoscopy today.