Are you worried about the health of your colon? Have you noticed a change in your bowel habits? It may be time for screening.
You probably already know that colon health is important. Your colon, or large intestine, has two important jobs: re-absorbing fluids and processing waste products in preparation for eliminating them from your body. Like other parts of your body, your colon is at risk for disease. One of the most serious diseases affecting this part of the digestive tract is cancer of the colon or rectum, known collectively as colorectal cancer. Screening can help detect colorectal cancer and other conditions that affect the colon.
Screening is a procedure that looks for signs of a disease before a patient has symptoms. Colon cancer screening checks for cancer of the colon.
But, when is it time for screening? It may be sooner than you think, especially if you have worrisome symptoms or are at higher risk for colon cancer or other colon problems.
Time for Colon Screening
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) recommends that people ages 50 to 75 undergo screening for colorectal cancer. The decision to undergo colorectal cancer screening in people 76 to 85 is an individual choice, based on the person’s overall health and their prior screenings. If you are in this older age group, you may want to undergo colon cancer screening if you are healthy enough for treatment and you do not have other conditions that would significantly limit your life expectancy.
How often you undergo routine screening depends on the test and your personal risk factors. You may choose to do a routine stool test every 1 – 3 years, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 – 10 years, colonoscopy every 10 years, or a virtual colonoscopy every 5 years.
You should undergo colon screening earlier or more often if you have certain factors that put you at higher risk of colon problems. Risk factors for colon cancer include:
- Older age – most people with colon cancer are over the age of 50
- African American race
- Personal or family history of colon cancer
- Personal history of polyps
If you are experiencing colon problems, such as changes in bowel habits or bleeding, your doctor may recommend colon screening.
For more information on colon screening, and what type of screening test you should undergo, consult with your doctor and schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging by calling 770-730-0119.