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Colon cancer screening typically involves a colonoscopy, a simple outpatient procedure that uses a thin, flexible, lighted scope to see inside your rectum and colon. The scope is passed through your anus into your rectum and colon so these areas can be evaluated for the presence of polyps, fleshy growths which sometimes can be a sign of colon cancer or indicate an increased risk for colon cancer. Colonoscopies can also be used to look for other abnormal changes in the lining of the bowel which may indicate cancer or other serious bowel diseases.
No, in fact most polyps are benign (not cancerous). Every polyp found during a colonoscopy will need to be removed for further evaluation in a lab. Polyp removal will be performed during the colonoscopy using special instruments designed to work with the colonoscope.
In its early stages, colon cancer typically causes no symptoms, which is why being screened is so very important. As the disease advances, colon cancer can cause varying symptoms, including:
dark or sticky bowel movements (bloody stools)
unintentional weight loss
Symptoms can vary based on how far the disease has progressed and the size of the tumor.
Colon cancer risk factors include:
personal history of colon polyps
family history of colon cancer
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
excessive alcohol consumption
prior radiation therapy in the belly area
The American Cancer Society recommends colon cancer screening every 10 years beginning at age 50 for most people, and every five years beginning at age 40 for people with risk factors for colon cancer.
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