Catching Cancer Early
Offering screenings for various cancers at convenient locations.
Colon and Rectal Cancers Screening
Colorectal (colon and rectal) cancer is preventable and highly treatable when caught at an early stage. People who are diagnosed at early stages have over a 90 percent chance of a cure and survival.
The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age and family medical history of the disease. Lynch Syndrome is the most common hereditary syndrome associated with high risk.
Recently, the American Cancer Society (ACS) changed their screening guideline recommendations from age 50 to 45 after learning that new cases of colorectal cancer are occurring at an increasing rate among younger adults. Learn more about colorectal cancer screenings from the ACS.
We recommend colorectal cancer screening for everyone ages 50 and over, and also recommend discussing when to get screened with your provider.
Colorectal cancer screening helps find precancerous polyps early so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Talk to your primary care provider about the right screening for you.
Who should be screened
If you’re over 45, have a history of colon cancer or have any other high risk characteristics like a family history, or are among higher risk ethnicities such as African American or American Indian, please get a screening colonoscopy. Ask your provider for a screening recommendation and/or a referral to a gastroenterologist close to home or work.
There are different types of screenings for polyps and cancer using the latest screening tests. These include:
- Colonoscopy - uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera. Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps.
- Double-contrast barium enema - uses a radiocontrast agent called barium and X-rays
- CT colonography (CTC), or virtual colonoscopy, using CT scanning (provided at specific sites)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy - uses a shorter tube with a camera to examine only the lower colon and rectum
- Stool (feces) tests - checks for blood
Ask your provider which screening is right for you.
What to expect at a screening colonoscopy
When it comes to getting a colonoscopy, you’re not the only one who has questions. But for every person who asks a question, there are dozens who won’t. That’s why we’ve gathered the six most commonly asked colonoscopy questions and answers:
Emptying your entire digestive system before a colonoscopy is an essential step. It lets your doctor get a clear look at your colon and remove polyps that either are, or may become, cancerous. But is the preparation itself bad? In truth, many consider it the most unpleasant part of the process, but don’t worry! For most, the amount of liquid you’re required to drink in one session has been reduced from the amounts of the past. Chilling the mixture helps and the texture is also a bit easier to drink. Your doctor will do whatever they can to help make the process as easy as possible. And a few hours of bathroom time are nothing compared to the lifetime health advantages.
Colonoscopies are considered the best procedure to check for polyps and other abnormalities that can lead to cancer in the colon and rectum. While you’re under a sedative, your physician gently expands your colon with air, then uses a long, flexible scope with a camera to view the rectum and colon, it is also ingeniously equipped to painlessly remove any polyps along the way.
The procedure itself is actually quite short, taking anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. That being said, you’ll want to clear your schedule for the day and have a driver to take you to and from your appointment, as the effects of the sedative can take several hours to wear off.
Everyone perceives pain differently, but thanks to the light sedative, the vast majority of people experience no pain during the procedure. The most you can expect is some minor abdominal discomfort (like common gas pains) during the recovery period.
Because a light sedative is used during the procedure, most people feel close to their normal selves when they wake up. You can also expect minor abdominal discomfort until you pass the air your doctor uses to expand your colon during the procedure (don’t worry, this is normal).
For most people, it’s recommended that you receive your first colonoscopy at age 45 and then repeat the process once every 10 years. However, it’s important to understand your personal risk factors like family history, weight, race and other factors and to talk to your provider about whether or not earlier screenings are right for you.
Before you arrive
Before arriving for your colonoscopy, you’ll need to make some preparations. Your gastroenterologist will inform you to prepare using one of the following forms. They should let you know the correct password for your colonoscopy prep.
Schedule your screening
Screening appointments are available at many convenient locations throughout the Puget Sound. A referral from your provider is required.
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has colorectal cancer screening locations throughout the Puget Sound.
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