Colon cancer has been on the rise in the US, especially among young adults. In 2021, for instance, it is estimated that about 149,500 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. In older adults, the disease is associated with smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. However, the causes of this cancer among young adults are still unknown. If colorectal cancer is diagnosed early, it is treatable with radiation, surgery, and drug treatments. So, doctors recommend early colon cancer screening to identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
What Is Colon Cancer Testing?
Doctors perform several screening tests to find colorectal cancer or polyps. The most common ones include:
- Stool Tests: The doctor uses the chemical guaiac and antibodies to detect blood in the stool. In some other cases, they may check for altered DNA in the stool. The most popular stool tests include the FIT-DNA test, the fecal immunochemical test, and the guaiac fecal occult blood test.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: A short, flexible, and lighted tube is inserted into your rectum, and the doctor checks for cancer or polyps in the rectum.
- Colonoscopy: The doctor uses a long, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer in the entire colon and rectum.
- CT Colonography: During this test, the doctor uses X-rays to produce images of your colon. The images are then analyzed for signs of colorectal cancer.
Do You Need Colon Cancer Screening?
You should go for colon cancer testing even if you don't have symptoms. Sometimes, colon cancer can be asymptomatic for a long time. So, most people are diagnosed with it in its third or fourth stage.
Its recommended to go for colon cancer testing if you experience some of the following symptoms:
- Changes in Your Bowel Habits: These changes include persistent constipation or diarrhea. You should also visit a physician if you notice a change in the consistency of your stool.
- Blood in Stool: Sometimes, blood in the stool can be a result of anal fissures, hemorrhoids, or constipation. However, it could also be a sign of colon cancer, especially if it comes along with other symptoms, such as severe anal pain and painful abdominal cramping.
- Persistent Abdominal Discomfort: Occasional abdominal discomfort is normal. It could be associated with eating highly acidic foods. However, if the cramps, gas, or pain persist, you should undergo colon cancer screening.
If you have colon cancer, you may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The symptoms may only appear when the cancer is in its advanced stages. So, you should go for colon cancer testing regularly.