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Confluence Health Colon Program

Colon Cancer Screening & Treatment

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer for both men and women in the United States, affecting roughly 45 out of 1000 people during their lifetime. It usually occurs in patients over 50 but can appear at any time. The early warning sign of colorectal cancer is polyps. Polyps are common growths that appear in the colon, but if they are left to grow for a long period of time then they can become cancerous. This is why it is important for patients with high colorectal cancer risk to undergo regular screenings.

Colon cancer does not cause any symptoms until the cancer has had significant time to grow. At this point, people will start experiencing weight loss, constipation, and blood in stool. Waiting this long to address the problem is dangerous. Medical professionals recommend patients receive colon cancer screening between the ages of 50 and 75. Two primary means of colon cancer screening are colonoscopy and fecal immunochemical testing (FIT)

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is an exam of the colon using small, flexible cameras. This camera is also equipped with small instruments that can remove any polyps discovered.

Patients will need to clean out their colon by drinking water and avoiding solid foods for a full day. The colonoscopy procedure only takes about 30 minutes, and patients are provided with a sedative to help them relax. Be sure to have someone available to drive you home, as it is illegal to operate a vehicle for 24 hours after receiving this sedative.

So long as no polyps are found, a colonoscopy will only need to be performed once every 10 years. There is a minimal risk that a colonoscopy will create a tear in the colon. These effects roughly 15 people out of 1000.

FIT

A FIT test requires a stool sample so that physicians can examine it for blood. Cancerous polyps will bleed in very small amounts that get trapped in stool. In the early stages, this blood may not be viewable with the human eye. Unlike colonoscopies, FIT testing needs to be done every year.

It is possible for FIT testing to find blood that was not caused by colon cancer. This results in false-positive results and can be a source of great stress for patients. Additionally, if FIT testing does find signs of cancer, a colonoscopy will need to be performed anyway to confirm the diagnosis.

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