Screening and Diagnosis
Sentara physicians strongly believe in colon and rectal cancer screenings. In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
However, with screening and early diagnosis, it can be prevented and cured. While no one knows the exact causes of colorectal cancer, there are several known risk factors, including age and family history.
If any of the statements below apply to you, talk to your doctor about colon and rectal screenings.
- I have a family history of colon cancer in a first degree relative (parents, brother, sister or child).
- I’m 45 years old, and I’m African American.
- I’m 50 years or older and have not had a colonoscopy.
- I have had a colonoscopy, but I’m not sure when to get the next one.
Common screenings we offer:
Physical Exam and History
An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as any changes in bodily functions that seem unusual. Routine physical examinations often include a digital rectal exam (DRE). During a digital rectal exam, a doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for proper function of the anus, masses, or anything else abnormal.
A history of the patient’s health habits, as well as past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
A test to check stool (bowel movements) for tiny amounts of blood. Sometimes cancers or polyps can bleed, causing microscopic amounts of blood in the stool. If this test detects blood, other tests are needed to find the source. Other conditions (such as hemorrhoids) can also cause blood in the stool.
A series of X-rays of the lower gastrointestinal tract. A liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound) is put into the rectum. The barium coats the lower gastrointestinal tract and X-rays are taken. This procedure is also called a lower GI series. Barium enema is generally only performed if a person cannot have a screening colonoscopy.
A procedure to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, abnormal areas or cancer. During the procedure, a colonoscope (a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera) is inserted through the rectum into the colon. Polyps or tissue samples may be taken for biopsy. Medicine for sedation is administered through an IV, allowing patients to sleep through the procedure.
For the results of a colonoscopy to be effective, patients must follow traditional bowl prep instructions for one to two days prior to the procedure. Bowel prep is important to clear fecal matter from the large intestine.
A colonoscopy is considered the most reliable test for detection and removal of growths that can lead to colon cancer.
A procedure that uses a series of X-rays called computed tomography (CT) to make a series of pictures of the colon. A computer puts the pictures together to create detailed images that may show polyps and anything else that seems unusual on the inside surface of the colon. This test is also called colonography or CT colonography.
For the results of a virtual colonoscopy to be effective, patients must follow traditional bowl prep instructions for one to two days prior to the procedure. Bowel prep is important to clear fecal matter from the large intestine.
Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) are all advanced technologies often used to pinpoint cancerous tissue.
Testing for Hereditary Colon Cancer Syndromes
Using a blood sample, a physician can often determine if a patient is at risk for hereditary cancer. Therefore, the patient and doctor can begin steps to reduce his or her risk and possibly prevent colorectal cancer. This process is carried out at the physician’s office.