Colon Cancer Screening

What are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?

In its early stages, colon cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms, which is why having regular colon cancer screenings is so very important to ensuring the disease is caught as soon as possible. As colon cancer progresses, it can cause symptoms including:

  • rectal bleeding
  • blood in the stool
  • change in bowel habits
  • change in bowel consistency
  • chronic abdominal cramps or bloating
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • unexplained weight loss

Symptoms can vary based on the stage of the cancer, its location and its size.

How is colon cancer screening performed?

Colon cancer screening is performed using colonoscopy, a minimally-invasive procedure that uses a long, flexible, lighted scope called a colonoscope to look inside your large intestine for polyps, fleshy growths that in some cases can be cancerous. When a polyp is discovered, it can be removed during the colonoscopy for further evaluation in a lab. Tissue samples, or biopsies, can also be taken during a colonoscopy. Most colonoscopy procedures take about a half hour to perform and are performed under sedation.

Are some people more at risk for developing colon cancer than others?

Yes, there are factors that can increase your risk for colon cancer, including:

  • older age
  • personal or family history of the disease
  • personal history of polyps
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • heavy use of alcohol
  • presence of inflammatory bowel disease
  • genetic factors
  • prior radiation therapy in the abdomen

How often should I be screened for colon cancer?

Most people should be screened for colon cancer every 10 years beginning at age 50, according to guidelines from the American Cancer Society. People at greater risk for colon cancer should be screened earlier and more frequently, typically every five years beginning at age 40.

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