Colon Cancer Screening in St. Louis, MO

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Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed type of cancer, but it stands out as one of the most preventable. The large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum, plays a critical role in absorbing water and some nutrients from digested food and storing solid waste until it is expelled.

A colon cancer screening involves examining the inner wall of the colon and rectum for polyps and cancerous growths, even when no symptoms are present. Polyps are noncancerous growths that can sometimes become cancerous over time. Detecting and removing these polyps and malignant tumors early can prevent complications and fatalities associated with colon cancer.

The board-certified gastroenterologists at Specialists in Gastroenterology perform routine colon cancer screenings and recommend that all patients start these screenings at age 45. To schedule a screening, contact your nearest St. Louis, MO location.

What are the benefits of colon cancer screenings?

Regular screenings for colon and rectal cancer are crucial for maintaining your overall and gastrointestinal health. While there are various screening methods, such as stool testing, a colonoscopy remains the only preventive strategy for colorectal cancer. The benefits of colorectal cancer screenings include:

  • Potentially life-saving examination
  • Early detection of colon or rectal cancer
  • Identification and removal of polyps in the colon and rectum
  • Prevention of colon cancer development
  • Detection of other gastrointestinal issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease

Colon cancer often does not show symptoms until it has progressed significantly. Periodic screenings allow your doctor to identify any issues early, improving treatment outcomes.

It's essential to discuss with your gastroenterologist when to undergo a colon cancer screening and which tests are suitable for you. The following tests are commonly used for screening:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This procedure uses a sigmoidoscope, a tube about the thickness of a finger with a camera on the end, to inspect the inside of the rectum and lower colon. Inserted through the rectum, it provides images of the rectum and part of the colon on a monitor. It can also be used to take biopsies and remove some polyps, but a colonoscopy is necessary to view the entire colon and remove all polyps or tumors. Though generally safe, there is a slight risk of bowel tear, bleeding, and infection.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscope, which is similar to a sigmoidoscope but longer, is used to examine the entire colon. The device is inserted through the rectum, and the doctor can view the whole colon on a monitor. Biopsies and polyp removals are performed through the colonoscope. Sedation is required, and there is a small risk of bowel tears, bleeding, or infection post-procedure. Notably, this is the only method that offers a complete colorectal prevention strategy.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: This noninvasive technique involves a CT scan of the colon. The patient lies on a CT scanner table, which takes cross-sectional images of the colon. No sedation is needed. If abnormalities are detected, a traditional colonoscopy is required to remove polyps or tumors.
  • Double-contrast barium enema: A small tube is inserted into the rectum, and barium sulfate, a chalky liquid, along with air, is introduced into the colon. The barium coats the outer walls of the colon, and X-rays are taken to reveal abnormalities. If any are found, a colonoscopy is necessary to remove them.
  • Fecal tests: These tests involve analyzing a stool sample and are completely safe. While fecal tests may not provide definitive results, they can indicate potential issues in the gastrointestinal tract that warrant further investigation. If results are positive, indicating possible cancerous growth, a colonoscopy is recommended. There are three types of fecal tests:
    • Fecal occult blood tests: Detect hidden blood in the stool through a chemical reaction.
    • Fecal immunochemical tests: Identify hidden blood using a specific immunochemical reaction to a protein in the blood.
    • Stool DNA tests: Look for abnormal DNA genes in cells shed from cancerous growths or polyps in the stool sample.
  • People over 45 years of age
  • Individuals with inherited familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition where numerous polyps develop in the colon and rectum
  • People with a history of colon cancer
  • Women with a previous history of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
  • Individuals with close family members, such as parents, siblings, or children, who have had colon cancer
  • People with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • People with a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and who smoke

Routine screenings are vital for catching colon cancer early and preventing its progression. If you're 45 or older or have conditions that increase your risk, make an appointment for a screening at your nearest St. Louis, MO location. Specialists in Gastroenterology, led by experienced gastroenterologists, emphasizes patient-focused care and uses cutting-edge technology to support digestive health. For more information on colon cancer screenings or to book your appointment, reach out to a Specialists in Gastroenterology in your community today.

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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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This was my first appointment and was very satisfied. He was sincere and ordered tests immediately and more follow up. The staff were all very nice and more than helpful.

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