Colorectal Cancer Screening
Testing people for a disease when no symptoms are present is called screening. It can help doctors find cancer in its early stages, making it easier to treat. In general, people should begin screenings for colon cancer or rectal cancer starting at age 50; however, people with risk factors for these disease should be tested earlier. Tests used include rectal exams, fecal occult blood tests, and colonoscopies.
What Is Colorectal Cancer Screening?Colorectal cancer screening is the process of testing for the disease before a person exhibits symptoms. Such tests can help the doctor find polyps or cancer in the early stages. Finding and removing polyps may prevent colorectal cancer. Also, treatment is more likely to be effective when the disease is found early.
Tests Used to Screen for Colorectal CancerThe following colorectal cancer screening tests are used to detect polyps, cancer, or other problems in the colon and rectum:
Digital Rectal Exam
A digital rectal exam is often part of a routine physical examination. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormal areas in the lower part of the rectum.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
Sometimes, cancers or polyps in the rectum or colon bleed. The fecal occult blood test can detect tiny amounts of blood in the stool. If the FOBT detects blood, other tests are needed to find the source. For example, other conditions, like hemorrhoids, can also cause blood in the stool.
During a screening sigmoidoscopy for colorectal cancer, the doctor checks inside the rectum and lower (sigmoid) colon with a lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope. If polyps are found, the doctor removes them. The procedure to remove polyps is called a polypectomy.