Colon Cancer Screening in St. Louis, MO

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Colon and rectal cancer can be prevented. The colon and rectum make up the large intestine, which will absorb water and nutrients from digested food and holds solid waste before it is expelled from the body.

Screening for colon cancer is simply looking for polyps and growths that could be cancerous on the inside wall of the rectum and colon when no gastrointestinal symptoms exist. A polyp is a growth that is not cancerous in the colon. However, the polyps can develop into cancer. Early detection and removal of polyps and any cancerous tumors may prevent complications and/or death caused by colon cancer.

Our experienced GI specialists commonly perform screenings for colon cancer in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. To request a screening, contact your nearest Specialists in Gastroenterology location today.

What are the benefits of colon cancer screenings?

Regular screenings for colon and rectal cancer are vital to your general and GI health. Several advantages of screenings for colon cancer involve:

  • Potentially find colon or rectal cancer earlier
  • Potentially prevent colon cancer from developing
  • Find and remove abnormal growths in the colon and rectum
  • Diagnose other types of gastrointestinal conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • May be a life-saving exam

Colon cancer may not present signs or symptoms until the disease progresses. Scheduling screenings on a periodic basis can help diagnose any issues as soon as possible.

Patients should talk to their GI provider at a Specialists in Gastroenterology location in their community about when they should be screened for colon cancer and which screening approach they can take. Any of the tests listed below could be used for a colorectal cancer screening:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy will be used to get a look at the inner lower colon and rectum. A finger-sized tube that has a camera (sigmoidoscope) is placed into the rectum so we can take images of the inside wall and some of the colon. This can be used to biopsy the polyp or tumor and remove some polyps. Keep in mind, a colonoscopy needs to be done to see the whole colon and remove all tumors or polyps. This procedure is generally pretty safe but there is a minimal chance of a bowel tear, bleeding, and infection.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscope is like a sigmoidoscope, but it is longer and is used to examine the inside of the whole colon. It is snaked through the rectum and the GI specialist can see the entire colon on the monitor. Specific tools will be introduced into the colonoscope to take the biopsy and remove polyps. A form of sedation is applied. There is a small risk of bowel tears, bleeding, and/or infection occurring after the procedure.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: Virtual colonoscopy is a computed tomography scan of your colon. You will be asked to lie on our table where the CT scanner will take detailed images of your colon. This is a noninvasive technique and does not require you to be sedated. If any abnormalities are found, a colonoscopy will have to be done to extract the tumors or polyps.
  • Double-contrast barium enema: A little tube is inserted into your rectum and barium sulfate, which is a chalky white liquid, and air are pumped into the colon. The barium suspension will line the outer walls of the colon. X-ray images of your colon are then taken to identify any abnormalities on the inner wall of the colon. If any abnormalities are identified, a colonoscopy needs to be done to extract the tumors or polyps.
  • Fecal test: These are performed with a fecal sample and are very safe. These tests may provide confirmation but might suggest abnormalities in your GI tract, warranting further testing. A colonoscopy should be repeated if results are positive, indicating the presence of cancerous growths in your colon.

Our St. Louis, MO gastroenterologists conduct three types of fecal tests:

  • Fecal occult blood tests can detect blood in the feces not visible to normal eyes through a chemical reaction.
  • Fecal immunochemical tests detect blood through a certain immunochemical reaction of protein in the blood and can often find hidden blood.
  • Stool DNA tests identify specific abnormal/irregular DNA genes from the cells shed from cancerous growths or polyps in a stool sample.

Colorectal cancer can develop at any point, but there are some factors that could put you at a higher risk. Some of those factors include:

  • Patients 45 and older
  • Patients who have inherited familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition where individuals develop a number of polyps in their rectum and colon
  • Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Individuals who have had colon cancer before
  • People with a previous history of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
  • Patients with immediate family members like parents, siblings, or children who have or had colon cancer
  • Individuals with an inactive lifestyle, bad eating habits, and who smoke

Regular checks can make colon cancer easily detected and prevented in its early stages. If you are over 45 or if you've had additional conditions that raise your risk of colon cancer, it may be in your best interest to be screened for colon cancer. As a physician-led team of gastroenterologists who work with a patient-centered mentality, Specialists in Gastroenterology utilizes leading technology to strengthen your digestive health. To learn more about colorectal cancer screening in St. Louis, MO, contact one of our locations.

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Why is having colon cancer screenings important?

Colon cancer often starts from growths in the colon or rectum referred to as polyps. During a colonoscopy, these premalignant growths can be excised to help reduce the chance of and potentially prevent colon cancer development. Periodic colorectal cancer screenings may also allow physicians to detect cancer that has already developed. If colon cancer is detected early on, it may be simpler to treat.

At what age should I start having colon cancer screenings?

Individuals who are at average risk of colon cancer should begin having routine screenings for colorectal cancer at age 45. Individuals carrying an increased risk may require earlier screenings. Your gastrointestinal doctor can help you identify when you should begin having colorectal cancer exams.

How often should I get a screening for colon cancer?

The intervals at which patients should schedule colon cancer screenings can vary according to the type of evaluation being performed. In general, patients who are 45 or older should have a colonoscopy exam once every ten years when they have an average risk of developing colon cancer and have colonoscopy results that are within normal limits. Patients with a significantly high risk should undergo colonoscopy screenings a minimum of once every five years. To determine how often you should have screening exams for colorectal cancer, please contact your GI specialist.

How should I prepare for a colorectal cancer screening?

The preparatory instructions for a colorectal cancer screening will be based on the form of screening you are having. When undergoing a colonoscopy, detailed prep instructions will be given by your GI team ahead of your scheduled procedure to clear out your bowel. Your doctor may also provide certain directions to follow for several days leading up to your exam. It is essential to follow your provider's instructions to help ensure they can find any areas of concern when performing your screening for colorectal cancer.

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