Colon Cancer Screening in Northwest Arkansas

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Colon cancer is recognized as one of the more common avoidable cancers. Your colon and rectum together make up the large intestine, the organ that absorbs water and nutrients from digested food and holds solid waste until your body is ready to release it.

A colorectal cancer screening is the process of searching for polyps and cancerous growths on the inner wall of the colon and rectum when no gastrointestinal symptoms exist. A polyp is a nonmalignant (not cancerous) growth in the colon. However, these may become cancer in the future. Early detection and removal of colorectal polyps and any malignant tumors can help avoid complications and death resulting from colon cancer.

Our board-certified GI physicians routinely perform colorectal cancer screenings for Arkansas individuals. To arrange for a screening, contact GI Alliance of Arkansas.

What are the benefits of colon cancer screenings?

Undergoing routine screenings for colon cancer is very important to your digestive health and general wellness. Some of the benefits of screenings for colon cancer include:

  • Possibly detect colon cancer in the earlier stages
  • Potentially prevent colon cancer from developing
  • Detect and excise polyps in the rectum and colon
  • Diagnose other gastrointestinal issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • May be a life-saving procedure

Cancer of the colon may not produce signs or symptoms until it progresses. Scheduling screenings periodically can help identify any conditions as early as possible.

You should consult with your GI specialist at GI Alliance of Arkansas about which tests you should have and when. One or more of the following tests may be used for a colorectal cancer screening:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy is used to look at the inner rectum and lower colon. A finger-sized tube with a camera attached (sigmoidoscope) will enter the rectum so we can take images of the inner wall as well as a portion of your colon. This might also be used so we can take a biopsy of the tumor or polyp and terminate some polyps. However, a colonoscopy will need to be done to get a look at the entire colon and remove all polyps or tumors. It is generally pretty safe, but there is a slight risk of a bowel tear, bleeding, and infection.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscope is somewhat like a sigmoidoscope, except it is longer and is used to view the inside of the entire colon. It is snaked through your rectum so that the GI specialist can see the entire colon on the monitor. GI tools will be introduced into the colonoscope to complete the biopsy and extract polyps. Sedation is required for this procedure. There is a small chance of tearing in the bowel, bleeding, and/or infection after the procedure.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: Virtual colonoscopy is a computed tomography scan of the colon. You will be asked to lie on our treatment table, where our CT scanner will take cross-section images of your colon. This is a noninvasive treatment and doesn't call for you to be sedated. If any abnormalities are detected, a colonoscopy will need to be performed to extract the polyps or tumors.
  • Double-contrast barium enema: A small tube is inserted into your rectum and barium sulfate, a chalky white liquid, and air are pumped into your colon. The barium suspension will line the outer walls of the colon. X-ray images of your colon are then taken to identify abnormalities on the inner wall of the colon. If abnormalities are found, a colonoscopy will need to be done to extract the tumors or polyps.
  • Fecal test: Fecal tests are performed with a fecal sample and are totally safe. Fecal tests might not give confirmatory results but may suggest abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract, necessitating further testing. A colonoscopy needs to be performed if positive results are shown, indicating the presence of cancerous growths in the colon. Our Arkansas gastroenterologists conduct three different types of fecal tests:
    • Stool DNA tests look for specific abnormal DNA genes in the cells discarded from cancerous outgrowth or polyps in the stool sample.
    • Fecal occult blood tests detect blood in your feces that isn't visible to the eye through a chemical reaction.
    • Fecal immunochemical tests that detect blood through a specific immunochemical reaction of protein in your blood and are often able to find hidden blood.
  • Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Individuals with a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, or who smoke
  • Patients who have close family members such as parents, siblings, or children who have or had colon cancer
  • Individuals who had colon cancer before
  • Individuals with a history of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
  • People with familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition where they develop many polyps in the rectum and colon
  • People over 45 years of age

Regular testing is vital to detecting and preventing colorectal cancer in its early stages. If you are over 45 or have had prior conditions that increase your chances of colon cancer, you might want to schedule a colorectal cancer screening. A physician-led team of GI doctors who operate with a patient-centric mindset, GI Alliance of Arkansas uses the most innovative technology to support your digestive health. For more information about receiving a colon cancer screening in Arkansas, contact our office soon.

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Why are colon cancer screenings important?

Cancer of the colon commonly begins from irregular growths in the colon or rectum, referred to as polyps. During a colonoscopy exam, these premalignant growths can be excised to help lower the risk of and possibly prevent the development of this cancer. Regular screenings for colon cancer can also allow physicians to find colon or rectal cancer that has already developed. If colon cancer is detected early on, it may be simpler to treat.

When should you begin colon cancer screenings?

Adults who are at average risk should start having periodic screenings for colon cancer at age 45. Patients with an increased risk might need to screen even earlier. Your gastrointestinal specialist can help you determine at what age you should begin having screenings for colon cancer.

How often should you get a screening for colon cancer?

The frequency with which people should schedule colorectal cancer exams can vary according to the type of exam being conducted. Generally, people who are 45 and over should have a colonoscopy exam once every decade when they carry an average risk of developing colon or rectal cancer and experience colonoscopy results that are within normal limits. Those who carry a significantly high risk should undergo colonoscopy exams a minimum of once every five years. To determine how often you should have screening exams for colorectal cancer, please talk to your gastroenterologist.

What can I do to prepare for a colorectal cancer screening?

The preparation process for a colon cancer screening will be based on the type of screening scheduled. When undergoing a colonoscopy, detailed preparatory instructions on how to clean out your large intestine (colon) will be provided by your gastroenterology team before the procedure. There may be additional instructions to follow for several days leading up to your screening. It is important to follow your doctor’s directions to help ensure they can identify any issues when performing your screening for colorectal cancer.

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