“Colorectal cancer is known as a ‘silent’ disease,” explains Dr. Falkowski. “Because most of the time cancers of the colon and rectum don’t produce symptoms until the cancer is difficult to cure.”
2) Undergo regular screenings. The best strategy for early detection is having a screening test, which can identify polyps (abnormal growths) on the inner lining of the colon and rectum, and can detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages, when treatment is most effective. Sadly, some doctors fail to adequately explain the benefits of colorectal screening to patients. “Screening exams for colorectal cancer are critical because they can detect precancerous conditions which can be treated before they turn onto cancer,” says Dr. Falkowski.
The CDC calls for all adults to begin undergoing routine screenings for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Several tests are available to identify whether a person with no symptoms has precancerous polyps or early onset cancer:
Colonoscopy is the most common screening tool used by doctors to detect cancer and precancerous conditions. During this procedure, a doctor inserts a flexible tube, with a small video camera on the end, into the rectum to get images of the rectum and colon. Anyone who has undergone a colonoscopy knows that this test can be unpleasant, time-consuming and costly (if you don’t have health insurance). For these reasons some people put off screening, despite numerous studies indicating that the test is a life-saving tool. A 2012 study published in the medical journal Gastroenterology found that increased use of colonoscopy has led to a dramatic decline in colorectal cancer rates.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy, a similar test, gives the doctor images of the lower half of the colon. It can be performed in a doctor’s office and typically doesn’t require sedation like a colonoscopy.
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