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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
photo of a hand marking a calendar for a colonoscopy | GI North

Make sure to follow the recommended ages for screening tests. A colonoscopy checks the large intestine for polyps and cancer. This test also effectively removes any polyps that are found.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancers around. In fact, it is second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Not only does it affect all ethnic and racial groups but also it is often found in people over 50 years old.

However, you can prevent colorectal cancer in numerous ways. One of the most important is to get screened regularly, especially once you reach the age of 50. This is because there really are no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer. This is why it is imperative to get screening so you can catch the cancer right away.

For increased awareness of this devastating cancer, March is now known as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Prevention

The majority of colorectal cancers start out as a polyp, which is a growth in the tissue that lines the inner surface of the rectum or colon. Polyps are generally either raised or flat and can grow with or without a stalk. Although most are not cancerous, the adenoma type polyp has a greater risk of becoming a cancer. Therefore it is very important to have screening done on a regular basis if you are age 50 or older.

Types of Screening

Screening is a big part of colorectal cancer awareness. For the most part, there are various types of screening. Each type of screening has different routines and ways of testing.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy checks the large intestine for polyps and cancer. This test effectively removes any polyps that are found. Generally, the test takes about three hours and requires the patient be sedated. Hence, there needs to be a designated driver to help the patient home.

Hemoccult or High-Sensitivity Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT)

If you are 50 years of age or older, your doctor may recommend that you have an FOBT test once a year. Since polyps and colorectal cancers, an FOBT test can check for tiny amounts of blood in feces (stool) that is not normally seen. Research claims that if the gFOBT is done every 1 to 2 years in people aged 50 to 80 years, it can lower the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer by 15 to 33 percent.

At present, there are two types of FOBT tests that screens for colorectal cancer: fecal immunochemical (or immunohistochemical) test (FIT or iFOBT) and guaiac FOBT (gFOBT). With both types of FOBT, feces samples are tested:

iFOBT – To detect human hemoglobin, antibodies are used. Generally, there are not dietary restrictions for testing.

gFOBT – chemicals are used to detect heme, an element of hemoglobin (a blood protein). Since certain foods contain heme (e.g., red meat), the diet is restricted prior to the test.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Similar to a colonoscopy except that only the lower part of the large intestine and the rectum are examined with a sigmoidoscope. Typically, the test only takes a few minutes. Also, the lower colon needs to be cleared of stool before the test.

Regular Screening

The best prevention of colorectal cancer is regular screening. At GI North, their professional practice offers innovative experience and focused care in the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer. As well, Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano at GI North service the north metro Atlanta communities such as Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Duluth, Alpharetta, John’s Creek, Suwanee and Milton, GA. And if you would like a Spanish-speaking physician, you can request an appointment with Dr. Quijano.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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