Colorectal cancer is common in the US, being the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. The risk for developing colorectal cancer increases as you get older. Surviving the cancer depends on the stage at diagnosis, so the earlier it is discovered, the better the chance of complete cure and survival. Most colon cancers have no symptoms until it is in the late stages. Symptoms can include rectal bleeding (or anemia or low iron), abdominal pain or changes in the bowel pattern. These symptoms however are quite common and most folks with these symptoms don't have colon cancer at all. Most importantly, essentially every colon cancer starts in a small benign growth called a polyp. Not all polyps turn cancerous, but all cancers start as polyps. It probably takes many years for a polyp to grow, and then many more for a polyp to turn cancerous. If a polyp is found and removed, it can not become a cancer.
All of these facts support why colon cancer screening is so important. Screening means that testing is performed before symptoms start. We tell people all the time, we don't want to find colon cancer in anyone, we want to prevent it in the first place. Colonoscopy is best test at detecting polyps and cancer and the only screening method that can actually prevent colon cancer because it allows the doctor to detect and remove polyps during the same procedure. Stool testing does not. CT and X-ray colon testing does not.
If you do not get a colonoscopy, you have about a 1 in 20 chance of getting colon cancer in your lifetime. Getting a colonoscopy brings that chance much closer to zero. The doctors at Hillmont GI detect polyps in about 35-40% of patients who come here for screening colonoscopies, which is above the average of GI specialists across the nation. We also offer our patients a complimentary shuttle to and from their procedure, along with an ‘Open Access’ form that allows patients without symptoms to skip the office visit prior to their procedure.