Colon Cancer Screening Tests Your Doctor Might Recommend to Help Catch Colon Cancer Early

Colon cancer is such a common form of cancer that it pays to screen for the condition with tests your doctor recommends. The timing of colon cancer screening is based on your age, but your family history of colon cancer also matters. You might need to start screening earlier than someone else if your risk of colon cancer is higher than normal. Here are some ways your doctor might recommend screening for colon cancer.

Internal Scope Testing

A colonoscopy is a type of scope test where the doctor passes a scope up your colon to view the lining of your bowels. This is a popular type of colon cancer screening. A full bowel cleaning is needed beforehand, and you'll probably be lightly sedated during the procedure. One benefit of having a colonoscopy this way is that the doctor can remove polyps as soon as they're found.

A sigmoidoscopy is another test your doctor might recommend for colon cancer screening. It generally looks at the lower part of your colon, so it doesn't provide as much information as a full colonoscopy. Your doctor might prefer a full colonoscopy to reduce the risk of missing polyps in your upper colon.

Collecting Stool Tests At Home

Some colon cancer screening tests are simple and can be done at home. There are three types of stool tests. Your doctor may want you to have one of these done along with your annual exam. These tests usually involve collecting a stool sample and sending it to a lab to be analyzed for the presence of blood. Some tests also check for DNA that might indicate the presence of polyps. Blood in your stools is a common sign of colon cancer. If blood is detected in the screening test, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy to see where the blood is coming from and to look for signs of cancer.

Virtual Testing With CT Scans

A virtual colonoscopy is done with a CT machine that makes digital images of your colon. This test might be done if you can't have or don't want a colonoscopy since there is no internal examination needed. Instead, the doctor looks at CT scans of your colon. You'll still need to do a full bowel cleaning just as you would for a traditional colonoscopy.

CT scans of your colon can potentially miss smaller polyps, so your doctor might prefer you do a traditional colonoscopy. If polyps are found on the virtual colonoscopy, the doctor won't be able to remove them until you have a colonoscopy with a scope later, so having a virtual colonoscopy doesn't ensure you won't need a traditional colonoscopy too.

For more information about colon cancer screening, contact a local medical center near you to learn more.