4 Ways to Screen for Colon Cancer

screen for colon cancer

Colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon cancer, is a highly prevalent and potentially deadly disease that affects both men and women worldwide. Detecting this cancer at an early stage significantly improves the chances of successful treatment and survival. Thankfully, several effective screening methods are available to help identify colorectal cancer. Here, we will explore four crucial ways to screen for colon cancer: stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and capsule endoscopy.

Ways to Screen for Colon Cancer

1. Stool Tests

Stool tests, also known as fecal tests, are non-invasive and cost-effective initial screening tools for colorectal cancer. These tests primarily aim to detect blood or abnormal DNA markers in the stool, which may indicate the presence of cancer or precancerous growths known as polyps. The two primary types of stool tests for colorectal cancer screening are the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and the fecal immunochemical test (FIT).

  • FOBT is a traditional method that involves collecting a small sample of stool, which is then tested for the presence of hidden blood. Blood in the stool can be a sign of bleeding from colorectal polyps or tumors.
  • FIT, on the other hand, is a more advanced and specific stool test that detects human hemoglobin, a protein found in blood. FIT is less likely to give false-positive results than FOBT, making it a preferred choice for many healthcare providers.

2. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic procedure that allows healthcare professionals to examine the lower part of the colon and rectum. During this procedure, a thin, flexible tube with a camera (sigmoidoscope) is inserted through the rectum to view the colon’s lining. While it doesn’t examine the entire colon like a colonoscopy, it provides valuable information about the rectum and the lower third of the colon.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is considered a less invasive procedure compared to a full colonoscopy, as it doesn’t require sedation and is usually completed relatively quickly. However, it is limited in its scope and may miss abnormalities in the upper part of the colon. Therefore, it is often used in combination with stool tests or as a follow-up to abnormal stool test results.

3. Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. This comprehensive procedure allows healthcare professionals to examine the entire colon and rectum using a long, flexible tube equipped with a camera (colonoscope). Unlike flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy provides a complete view of the colon, allowing for the detection and removal of polyps and the biopsy of suspicious areas.

A colonoscopy is typically performed under sedation to ensure the patient’s comfort during the procedure. It is highly effective for both screening and diagnostic purposes, as it can identify and remove precancerous growths, potentially preventing colorectal cancer from developing. It is recommended for individuals at average risk starting at the age of 50, with follow-up intervals determined by the results and personal risk factors.

4. Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a relatively newer and less common method for colorectal cancer screening. At Wake Endoscopy Center, we offer PillCam Endoscopy as a primary service. It involves swallowing a small, pill-sized camera that travels through the digestive system, capturing images of the colon and rectum along the way. These images are then transmitted to a recorder worn on a belt, which is later analyzed by a healthcare provider.

While capsule endoscopy is less invasive than traditional colonoscopy and doesn’t require sedation, it is limited in its ability to remove polyps or perform biopsies. Therefore, it is typically used as a follow-up procedure for individuals with incomplete colonoscopies or when other methods are contraindicated.

Contact a Gastroenterologist 

In conclusion, colorectal cancer is a formidable adversary, but early detection through screening can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and survival. Stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and capsule endoscopy each play a crucial role in the battle against this disease. The choice of screening method depends on individual risk factors, preferences, and healthcare provider recommendations. Regular screening and early intervention are key to preventing colorectal cancer and ensuring better outcomes for patients. If you’re of age or have risk factors, don’t hesitate to discuss your screening options with one of our providers at Wake Endoscopy Center.