Colorectal Cancer Awareness: Colorectal Cancer Alliance · Prevent Cancer Fdn. (#TooYoungForThis) · American Cancer Society · ScreenNJ · Screening Methods · New Jersey Specialists · Helpline (877) 422-2030
From the time the first abnormal cells start to grow into polyps, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for them to develop into colorectal cancer. With regular screening, most polyps can be found and removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful tools for preventing colorectal cancer. You should start getting screened age 45 or older.
Talk to your health care provider about which ones might be good options for you. No matter which test you choose, the most important thing is to get tested. If you have a strong family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, you might benefit from genetic counseling to review your family medical tree.
There are now screening tests that can determine if a colonoscopy is necessary:
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is much like colonoscopy, but looks at only part of the colon and rectum. Polyps could be detected and removed during the test, or you may need to have a colonoscopy. Bowel prep may be required, but not as extensive as the one used for colonoscopy.
A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) also screens for colon cancer by detecting blood in the stool. FIT reacts to a part of the hemoglobin molecule (a protein found in red blood cells). If an abnormality is detected, a colonoscopy may be needed for further management.
Because colon or rectal bleeding can be a possible sign of colon cancer, a fecal (stool) occult blood test could detect small amounts of blood in your stool. For three consecutive days, you’ll place small stool samples on chemically treated cards and send them to a lab for testing. You’ll have to follow a special diet to ensure accurate test results.
A stool DNA test also screens for cancer by looking for gene changes and blood in your stool sample. Like FIT, you do not need to follow a specific diet prior to submitting a sample. And like the other stool tests, if an abnormality is detected, you may need to undergo a colonoscopy for further management.
Double-contrast barium enema is a type of x-ray test where a liquid called barium into the rectum, which spreads through the colon. Air is then pumped in to spread the barium in a thin, smooth layer to show better detail. It requires bowel prep, but no sedation. If polyps or suspicious areas are seen on the test, a follow-up colonoscopy will be needed.
Virtual Colonoscopy is a scan of the colon and rectum that produces detailed cross-sectional images so the doctor can look for polyps or cancer. It requires bowel prep, but no sedation. A CT scanner is used to take images of the colon. If something is seen that may need to be biopsied, a colonoscopy will be needed.