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Screenings Best Way to Deter Colon Cancer

Kristie Todd-Reisnour, FNP

Cancer research continues to make strides but it is still not completely clear what causes colon cancer. We do know most colon cancer begins as a growth called a polyp. And while not all polyps become cancerous, the only way to find out is by getting screened.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk start colorectal cancer screening at age 50. Some people may be at higher risk based on their family health history and need to start testing earlier. Recommended screening options such as Fecal Occult Blood Test, Stool DNA test kit shipped directly to your own home or colonoscopy are available.

One option that may be available for you is a stool DNA test kit. This noninvasive test you can do yourself in the privacy of your own home. The test works by collecting and analyzing the DNA that is passed from your cells into the stool. If there are abnormal cells or blood detected, cancer or precancer could be present and further analysis is performed. The results are explained to you by your primary care provider. It is important to note that this type of test is not for everyone. It should not be used as a replacement for diagnostic or in-depth screenings, especially for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. The gold standard to screen for colorectal cancer continues to be the colonoscopy.

Between screenings, it’s important to keep an eye on your body and note any changes you experience.
Here are signs that may indicate colon cancer:

  • Change of bowel habits
  • Bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Unusual or persistent abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas, or pain
  • Unexplained weight loss, weakness, fatigue or vomiting.

If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your provider. Remember, getting regular screenings is your best defense, as many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms at all during the early stages of the disease.

Talk with your doctor about the signs and symptoms of colon cancer and determine when you should begin screening.

(Kristie Todd-Reisnour, FNP, is a nurse practitioner at CHI St. Alexius Health Century Family Clinic. She specializes in family medicine, women’s health, osteoporosis, and geriatrics.)