Specialists at UMMC perform routine and advanced testing to detect cancers in the digestive tract sooner, when it’s more treatable. The American Cancer Society recommends regular screening for colon and rectal cancers beginning at age 50. African-Americans should begin screening at age 45. Men and women who have a family history of colorectal cancer or close relative with colon polyps should discuss with their doctor about beginning annual screenings earlier.
A common test to detect colon or rectal cancer is a colonoscopy. This test allows doctors to look for signs of cancer and other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions and remove polyps if they find them. Removing benign (non-cancerous) polyps can help prevent them from becoming malignant (cancerous).
Your primary care physician will recommend a procedure that is best for you and your health conditions and when to start annual screening. Screenings can be done at UMMC Gastroenterology.
Men and women with certain colorectal risk factors, such as previous colon polyps or close relatives with colon cancer or polyps, should start screening tests at an earlier age. Talk to your doctor about what is appropriate for you.
Colonoscopy: Recommended every 10 years with no increased risk factors but more frequently if risk factors or present. Your doctor can clarify what is best for you.
Some hereditary conditions that increase risk of colon or anal cancers include:
Doctors may use these annual tests to look for signs of colon cancer and other conditions. They precede a colonoscopy, and can be requested from any primary care provider.
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These tests use a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens to allow doctors to see inside the digestive tract, respiratory tract, chest, or abdomen. Doctors also can use tools inserted through this tube to remove tissue samples for biopsy or to remove abnormal tissue. If doctors are looking into the chest or abdomen, they may make small cuts to insert the scope and other small cuts to insert other tools. If cancer in the GI tract appears to be spreading, doctors may recommend looking into the lungs, chest, or abdomen.
Also called a lower GI series, this exam allows the doctor to see the inside contour, shape, and size of the colon in motion. The large intestines are filled with a barium liquid while X-rays are being taken. Doctors may recommend a double contrast image in which barium and air are introduced. This test will show very small surface abnormalities.