By: Imad Shbeeb, M.D., medical director, Colorectal Surgery Program, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center
After the uncomfortable prep and screening process, what if the result of your colonoscopy was peace of mind that you were cancer free?
Colonoscopies are the gold standard for detecting colorectal cancer, and for good reason. Not only do they detect cancer, they can even prevent it through the removal of precancerous polyps.
Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells or polyps. While harmless on their own, over time, these polyps can become cancerous.
Weigh Your Options
There are a lot of options available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some tests can find both polyps and cancer, while others can only detect cancer.
However, no other screening can quite detect polyps or colorectal cancer like the colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, the doctor looks at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope – a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a small camera on the end. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to take samples or remove any suspicious areas.
Other polyp and cancer screening options, like the sigmoidoscopy, may not require the same full bowel prep, but it also can only look at about one third of the colon and can often miss small polyps – leaving patients at risk for developing cancer.
As research advances, there have become a variety of stool test options for finding cancer by looking to see if there is hidden blood in the stool. Many of these stool tests avoid bowel prep all together, and can be done at home.
While this seems like an easier, painless way to be screened, the downside is that if the results are positive, a colonoscopy will likely be needed to investigate further. Almost every alternative screening for colorectal cancer will need a colonoscopy to help make an accurate diagnosis.
While colonoscopies offer the most health benefits, it’s important to weigh your options with your doctor to choose a screening that’s right for you.
The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers the latest in diagnostics, cutting-edge technology, and advanced treatments for colorectal cancer – so if you happen to receive a cancer diagnosis, Long Beach Medical Center will be with you every step of the way.
To learn more, call 1.800.MEMORIAL or visit memorialcare.org/gicancer.