Colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, responds best to treatment if it is found and treated early. Everyone should be screened starting at age 50. High risk people, including African Americans, may need to be screened before age 50. Talk with your doctor about whether you are at high risk for colon cancer and which screening best suits you.
There are several screening tests that are available:
- Fecal occult blood tests should be repeated annually. If any blood is detected you may need a colonoscopy.
- Barium enema needs to be repeated every five years if polyps are found a colonoscopy is required.
- Sigmoidoscopy does not look at the entire colon and needs to be repeated every five years. It does not require a sedative but if polyps are found a colonoscopy may need to be done.
- Colonoscopy should be done every 10 years. A sedative is used to make you more comfortable so a driver is needed to escort the patient home.
- Digital rectal exam is often done during a general physical exam to check for abnormal areas in the rectum.
- Virtual Colonoscopy and DNA stool tests are being tested to determine how effective they are compared to current screenings. The virtual colonoscopy still requires you to do a full colon prep and if polyps are found a colonoscopy is recommended.
The Iowa Consortium for Comprehensive Cancer Control has a list of free or reduced cost colon cancer screenings across Iowa during March.
For help finding a screening near you, please call 800-237-1225 or visit www.canceriowa.org.
For more information about cancer risk or any cancer concern, contact:
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center/Cancer Information Service
Iowa Consortium for Comprehensive Cancer Control
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
Cancer Information Service