Why is a Colonoscopy the Gold Standard for Identifying Colorectal Cancer?

Summary: A routine colonoscopy is the gold standard for identifying and preventing colon cancer over other forms of screenings, like home-based tests.

Close to 50,000 individuals in America die from colorectal cancer each year. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined. Fortunately, it is typically treatable and, when identified early, the prognosis can be very good.

Three types of home-based colon cancer screening kits have been approved by the FDA. Such tests work by detecting malignant changes in the feces, like bleeding or DNA markers for colon and rectal cancer. While the comparative ease of these tests may make them feel like an acceptable substitute, it is crucial to understand that the colonoscopy continues to be the best option for the detection and prompt treatment of colon and rectal cancer. For men and women in Hinsdale, IL, a gastroenterologist who can carry out a colon cancer screening is accessible at Hinsdale Gastroenterology Associates.

Why receive a colon cancer screening?

Early detection is key to battling colorectal cancer. When cancer is detected in the colon or rectum before it has an opportunity to spread, the five-year chance of survival is about 90%. Although additional ways of checking for colon cancer exist, nothing has shown to be as effective and as complete as the colonoscopy exam. The greatest tools in the battle against colon and rectal cancer are colorectal cancer awareness and habitual colonoscopies.

How do colonoscopies work?

To begin your procedure, your GI doctor will provide you with preparation guidelines to make sure your bowel is vacant during the screening. These guidelines can involve:

  • Modifying medicines: If you are on specific prescription drugs for diabetes, blood pressure, or heart problems, then you might need to adapt the dosage or temporarily stop using them.
  • Taking a laxative: Your gastroenterologist might offer you a laxative or "bowel prep" to clear your colon either the evening before or the day of your exam.
  • Fasting: You may be asked to avoid solid food and ingest only translucent liquids for a day prior to your colonoscopy.

During the procedure, you will possibly be administered a gentle sedative to help you relax and then asked to rest on your side. A slender, pliable tube fitted with a small camera on the end will be inserted through your rectum. This tube, the colonoscope, is long enough to extend through the entire colon (large intestine). Your colonoscopy doctor will examine the video from the colonoscope's camera on a special monitor and screen for abnormalities. In the event a growth (polyp) or any other abnormality is identified, special instruments can be placed through the colonoscope to capture samples of the tissue for biopsy.

When should you undergo a colonoscopy exam?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that patients schedule their initial colonoscopy when they are age 45 followed by once every decade if they are of average risk. When patients have an elevated risk for colorectal cancer, our Hinsdale, IL gastroenterologists might advise having a colonoscopy on a 3 to 5-year basis. Colorectal cancer risk factors include:

  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Digestive concerns, such as Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Personal history of multiple polyps, large polyps, or colon cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes

Our GI doctors might also suggest a colonoscopy if any of the following symptoms of colon and rectal cancer are present:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chronic constipation
  • Bloody stools
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Loose stools

Individuals who are showing these signs and symptoms are encouraged to call Hinsdale Gastroenterology Associates to meet with a gastrointestinal physician as soon as possible.

Why is a colonoscopy considered the gold standard?

Though some home screening tests have been approved by the FDA, a colonoscopy is still the most effective way to detect colon and rectal cancer. In addition, large or potentially malignant polyps can be excised with a colonoscopy which decreases the need for further procedures. An individual who tests positive on a home screening kit will still need to undergo a colonoscopy to verify the results and remove any cancerous or precancerous polyps.

Schedule your colon cancer screening in Hinsdale, IL

For adults age 45 and older, receiving periodic colorectal cancer screenings is a critical part of protecting your digestive and general health. A colonoscopy screening at Hinsdale Gastroenterology Associates can help identify and prevent colon and rectal cancer, offering you peace of mind if you are cancer-free and giving you a good fighting chance if cancer is detected early. To schedule your colonoscopy in Hinsdale, IL, or to learn more about protecting yourself against colorectal cancer, please reach out to our GI team today.