Colon health screening saves lives
Colon cancer is highly curable when found and treated early. While steady progress has been made in the past decade detecting and curing colon disease and cancer because of the expanded use of diagnostic screening tests, it remains the second cause of cancer death in the U.S.
A large proportion of the U.S. adult population declines to take these screening tests because of concerns about invasiveness, potential risks or costs. “Our challenge as healthcare providers is to convince our adult patients to participate in a colon screening option for their health,” says Harald Schoeppner, M.D. with Legacy Medical Group-Gastroenterology
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable
has set a national goal to substantially reduce the occurrence of colorectal cancer, which affects 140,000 people every year. The coalition’s goal is for 80 percent of the U.S. adult population to screened for colon cancer by 2018.
Starting at age 50, unless there is a family history of colon cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends a screening test to assess the health of the colon. A screening test is done with a patient who has no symptoms and is otherwise healthy. People with symptoms--such as intestinal bleeding, a change in bowel pattern, severe weight loss, or unexplained abdominal pain—need to contact their doctor right away to find out what’s going on.
Several screening options are available to detect and prevent colon disease and cancer.
A colonoscopy (an examination of the colon under sedation) can find precancerous polyps and cancer, obtain tissue pieces (biopsies) and remove polyps, offering a unique advantage. “We feel strongly that a quality colonoscopy is the gold standard to prevent colon cancer because polyps that lead to cancer can be detected and removed,” said Dr. Schoeppner. The procedure requires bowel preparation and mild sedation to allow for a safe and painless procedure. The test is repeated every 10 years when examination results are normal.
Stool tests primarily detect cancers, and they do not need a bowel preparation. Stool tests are only effective when they are repeated at regular intervals. A FIT (fecal immunochemical test) is a yearly stool test. Another option is a stool DNA test, which detects specific changes in the colon, and is performed every three years. If a stool test is abnormal, a full colonoscopy is required.
Other colon health screening tests are available to address specific medical situations where a colonoscopy is not feasible. They include a CT colonography X-ray test and a flexible sigmoidoscopy (a short tube test).
A referral and visit to a gastroenterologist can help you discuss the benefits and risks of each screening method and help you make the best choice depending on your health and health history. You can call the Legacy Medical Group–Gastroenterology clinic at 503-674-2044, and we will be happy to answer your questions.
Pictured (L to R): Susan Nguyen, Betty McMurry, Dr. Harald Schoeppner, and Kristal Luttrell with Legacy Mount Hood's endoscopy team.
Media Inquiries: Please contact Julie Reed at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center.