Colorectal Cancer Screening and YOU!

February 6, 2011 | Health Advice | By: Jennifer Brull

At Plainville Medical Clinic, we strive to keep all our patients healthy, not just fix problems when they arise.  We would like to take a few minutes to give you information about colorectal cancer screening.  We recommend screening everyone age 50 to age 80 on a regular basis.  If you have been screened recently outside of our office, please let us know so we can ensure your records are up-to-date.

There are two recommended methods for colorectal cancer screening, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.  You can choose either method of screening based on your own history and preference.

The most comprehensive screening method is colonoscopy, a procedure done at the hospital (as an outpatient).  Colonoscopy is the “gold standard” for colorectal cancer screening.  Because the physician is actually visualizing the inside of the colon with a colonoscope, they are more likely to see any early signs of cancer.  The main disadvantage to colonoscopy is the preparation, which involves drinking a large volume of laxative and cleaning out the entire bowel.  For the procedure, patients are asleep so experience little or no discomfort.  Usually, patients go home from the hospital the same day as they have the colonoscopy.  We recommend colonoscopy to everyone as a screening method, and especially for anyone who has a family history of colorectal cancer.

The second method of screening is hemoccult testing.  Hemoccult cards are much less invasive than a colonoscopy, one of their main advantages.  You would obtain a kit from our office to take home and complete sample collection there, returning the kit to us by mail so we can test for blood in your stool samples.  (Most colorectal cancers will bleed, so finding blood in the stool is a risk factor for cancer.)  If the samples are all negative, further screening can be deferred for one year.  If any of the samples is positive for blood, you would need a colonoscopy for more definitive diagnosis.  There are two major disadvantages to testing by hemoccult cards: 1) short testing interval (you have to complete a set of cards every year) and 2) possibility of missed diagnosis (since all colorectal cancers do not bleed).  For people who do not have a family history of colorectal cancer, or do not want to have the more invasive colonoscopy, hemoccult testing may be a more acceptable alternative.

If you have not been screened for colorectal cancer recently, please contact your provider at our office and let them know which method you would prefer.  Our goal is to screen 100% of our patients, and we would love your help on this project to improve your health!