Cancer of the colon or rectum causes more than 50,000 deaths each year in the U.S. These cancers may not cause symptoms in their early stages, so regular screenings are essential. Screening can catch cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. In many cases it can stop colon or rectum cancer before it starts.
Most people should start colon cancer screening at age 50. If you have risk factors, such as a family history of colorectal cancer, your provider may want you to start screenings earlier.
We understand that people are often anxious about having a colonoscopy or other test that can seem intrusive. The team at our Colon Cancer Screening Center is committed to making the process as easy and comfortable as possible. We use the latest tools and techniques and we take the time to make sure you understand each step.
Detecting Colon Cancer
Most cancers of the colon and rectum begin as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If your provider finds a polyp during a colonoscopy, he or she can remove it during the same procedure. If the polyp is cancerous, or if there are other signs of cancer, starting treatment right away often leads to a cure.
If you have a polyp or abnormal tissue removed during a screening test, we develop a timeline for future testing to catch any recurrence early. Our team will design your surveillance schedule to fit your specific needs and goals.
Treating Colon Cancer
Your care for colorectal cancer comes from an expert team that focuses specifically on this type of cancer. Our patients benefit from the extensive expertise of the radiologists, surgical oncologists, colorectal surgeons and others at Lahey’s Cancer Institute.
Types of Screening Tests
As more and more people in the U.S. get screened for colon and rectal cancer, death rates for these cancers continue to drop. Screening at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center includes traditional, highly effective tests as well as advanced techniques. Your provider will work with you to determine which options are best for your age, risks and other factors. He or she may recommend one or more of these tests:
- Colonoscopy. This is the most common procedure for screening and diagnosing colon cancer. Your provider uses a thin, flexible tube with a light and tiny camera at the end to examine the rectum and entire length of the colon. He or she can remove any polyps or abnormal tissue for testing in the lab.
- Stool tests. Stool tests are an alternative to colonoscopy for those patients who are unable to undergo a colonoscopy. Cancer can cause bleeding in the colon or rectum. This can be detected by sending a sample of your stool to the lab for testing. Most stool tests can be done at home with a special kit. They include a stool DNA test, a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and a fecal occult blood test (FOBT).