Is a Colonoscopy the Gold Standard for Colon Cancer Detection?


Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among adults, with roughly 50,000 Americans passing away from the disease each year. Luckily, the disease is commonly treatable and, when detected in the early stages, the prognosis can be quite good.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved three types of at-home screening exams for colorectal cancer. These exams operate by uncovering abnormal shifts in the fecal matter, like DNA markers for colorectal cancer or blood. Though the comparative simplicity of these exams could make them seem like a good replacement, it is important to understand that the colonoscopy remains the best option for the diagnosis and prevention of colon and rectal cancer. At Colorado Gastroenterology, our skilled GI specialists routinely conduct colonoscopies for Denver, CO patients.

Why should you undergo a colonoscopy exam?

Early identification is crucial to battling colon and rectal cancer. If cancer is caught in the colon or rectum before it has a chance to spread, the five-year chance of survival is approximately 90%. Even though additional approaches of testing for colon and rectal cancer are available, none are as accurate and as comprehensive as the colonoscopy screening. The best weapons in the battle against colon and rectal cancer are colorectal cancer awareness and maintaining regular colonoscopies.

How are colonoscopies performed?

To begin your exam, your GI physician will provide you with preparatory directions to make sure your bowel is vacant throughout the procedure. These instructions typically include:

  • Fasting: You may be requested to forgo solid food and ingest only transparent fluids for several hours before your screening.

  • Modifying prescription drugs: If you consume any prescription drugs for heart problems, diabetes, or blood pressure, you may need to adjust your dose or temporarily cease using them.

  • Taking a laxative: Your GI specialist might offer you a laxative or "bowel prep" to clear your colon either the evening before or the day of your colonoscopy.

Throughout the procedure, you will likely be mildly sedated for comfort and then directed to rest on your side. A flexible, slender tube with a camera on the end will be inserted inside your colon (large intestine) via the rectum. This tube, called a colonoscope, is lengthy enough to run throughout your entire colon. Your gastroenterologist will review the live feed from the colonoscope's camera on a video monitor and search for any abnormal areas. Should any growths (polyps) or other abnormalities be detected, special instruments can be placed through the scope to remove tissue samples for biopsy procedures.

When should I get a colonoscopy exam?

According to the USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force), you should receive your initial colonoscopy when you are 45 and then once every decade if you are at average risk for the disease. Should you be at an elevated chance of developing colon or rectal cancer, your GI specialist may suggest a screening at 3 to 5-year intervals. Common risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Digestive diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease

  • Personal history of multiple polyps, large polyps, or colon cancer

  • Family history of colorectal cancer

  • Type 2 diabetes

Your GI doctor may also recommend a colonoscopy if you have any of the following symptoms of colorectal cancer:

  • Persistent constipation

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loose stools

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Blood in your stool

People in Denver, CO who are showing these signs are urged to call Colorado Gastroenterology promptly to set up a consultation with a gastrointestinal physician.

Why is a colonoscopy the gold standard for colorectal cancer screenings?

Even though a few at-home screening kits have received FDA approval, a colonoscopy is still the most effective procedure for detecting cancer of the colon or rectum. In addition, large or potentially malignant polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy which lessens the need for further treatments. An individual who tests positive on a home-based screening will still need to have a colonoscopy to confirm the results and have any polyps taken care of.

Time for your colon cancer screening? Schedule a colonoscopy in Denver, CO

For individuals age 45 and older, undergoing regular colon cancer screenings is a central part of maintaining your health. A colonoscopy screening at Colorado Gastroenterology can identify and help prevent colon and rectal cancer, giving you a good fighting chance if the cancer is caught early and peace of mind if you are cancer-free. For further details on the fight against colorectal cancer, or to meet with a colonoscopy doctor in Denver, CO, contact our GI clinic today.