In 2000, President Clinton officially dedicated March as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. This designation provides patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the country an opportunity to join together to raise awareness about colon cancer and the importance of early detection.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women with an average risk of developing colon cancer be tested beginning at age 50. People with certain risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer or a history of inflammatory bowel disease should be tested earlier.
Early detection can save lives, but unfortunately, less than half of the people age 50 and older get tested for colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., yet there is a 90 percent cure rate when detected early.
There are a variety of different tests used to diagnose colon cancer. They include:
Standard (or optical) colonoscopy – During this test, the rectum and entire colon are examined using a colonoscope, a flexible lighted tube with a lens for viewing and tool for removing tissue. During a colonoscopy, any abnormal growths in the colon and rectum can be removed.
Sigmoidoscopy – During this test, the rectum and the sigmoid colon are examined using a sigmoidascope. The instrument is inserted through the anus and into the rectum and sigmoid colon as air is passed pumped into the colon to expand it so the doctor can see it more clearly.
High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) – This exam checks for tiny amounts of blood in feces (stool) that cannot be seen by the naked eye. The stool samples are collected by the patient and the doctor has the samples tested.
Speak with your doctor about when to begin screening for colorectal cancer and what test(s) are best for you. If you do not have a doctor, Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center has doctors that can help. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 718-670-5486.