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Staying Healthy with Cancer Prevention

Want to learn ways to prevent GI diseases, including cancer? VCU Health educates patients on how to stay healthy and cancer-free, and it starts with regular screening tests.

Regular Screening is Vital for GI Wellness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men and women should begin regular screening starting at age 50, as follows:

  • High-sensitivity fecal immunochemical test (FIT): This screening checks for hidden blood in stool samples and should be done every year.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Physicians use a flexible, lighted tube, called a sigmoidoscope, to look at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon. This screening should be done every five years in combination with the FIT screening annually.
  • Colonoscopy: Physicians use a flexible, lighted tube, called a colonoscope, to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon. A colonoscopy should be done every 10 years. During this procedure, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination, or polyps may be removed. Colonoscopies can be used as screening tests or as follow-up diagnostic tools when the results of another screening test are positive.

Different Recommendations for High Risk Patients

Those at higher risk for colorectal cancer should talk to their primary care doctor about beginning screenings sooner or having them performed more frequently. People who are at greater risk for colorectal cancer include:

  • A personal or family history of inflammatory bowel conditions or ulcerative colitis
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Constipation or abdominal discomfort
  • Family history of first-degree relatives with colorectal cancer
  • Prior radiation to the abdomen
  • Symptoms such as blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss

Latest Advancements in Colorectal Screenings

Today, there have been many medical advancements in colorectal screenings.The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) recently replaced fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), as it only detects blood from the lower intestine and is generally more reliable than FOBT. Additionally, the FDA has now approved stool DNA testing, which checks for genetic changes that are sometimes found in colorectal cancer cells. This test is meant for people who do not wish to undergo the usual preparation required for a colonoscopy. If the stool DNA testing results are abnormal, a colonoscopy may be required for an accurate diagnosis.

Why Choose VCU Health for Colon Cancer

For those who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, most will undergo surgery to remove the tumor, and they may also receive chemotherapy and/or radiation before or after surgery. We believe it’s best to get a second opinion and understand the difference between cancer care providers. You will find that academic medical centers like VCU Health typically perform more surgeries and treat more complex cancers, and patients often have better outcomes as a result. Also, surgeons at academic medical centers often specialize in one type of surgery instead of general surgery.