Dr. Casey Owens a gastroenterologist with Revere Health, encourages men and women to make sure they start getting colonoscopies at age 50. Colon cancer is incredibly common and is one of the top killers of both sexes. This disease is preventable and usually does not present symptoms until it is too late. If you have a family history of colon cancer you should start screening at age 40 or ten years before your relative was diagnosed-whichever is earlier.
Dr. Ownes wants patients to know they have the right to request a specialist when going in for their colonoscopy. “Choosing an experienced gastroenterologist to perform your colonoscopy is vital. Make sure your doctor is specially trained to perform your screening procedure. Just as you’d want an experienced, skilled heart surgeon performing your heart surgery, you’d want an experienced, skilled gastroenterologist performing your colonoscopy.”
He also says that by asking for a doctor who focuses on this area, it reduces the chances that you will have to repeat the same procedure. “Research shows that patients who have a colonoscopy done by a non-specialist have a 39 percent greater chance of needing a repeat colonoscopy performed by a gastroenterologist in order to treat what a non-specialist isn’t trained to treat. Colonoscopy screening is the best way to screen for and prevent colon cancer. Request that your screening is performed by a trained gastroenterologist to significantly decrease your risk of colon cancer and needing a repeat procedure.”
There are a variety of ways to be screened for colon cancer:
- FIT screening. A yearly stool test. Cheap and quick but can't remove precancerous polyps. If positive, a colonoscopy is needed.
- Cologuard. An every 1-3 year stool DNA test. Unable to remove polyps. Maybe more accurate than every year testing. Again, if positive, a colonoscopy is needed.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy. Using a camera to look at the last third of the colon and rectum. Can remove some polyps but doesn't assess the entire colon.
- Colonoscopy. The gold standard.
Colonoscopies are the only test that can not only find small/all polyps (Cologuard can't detect lesions < 5 mm) throughout the entire colon but also remove them. This test is done every 3 to 10 years depending on how many polyps are removed and is the best cancer screening test there is. Still much more effective than mammograms, Pap smears, etc. because once a polyp is removed it can't become cancer. Colonoscopy screens and prevents colon cancer.