By Sanjiv Chopra, M.D., MACP, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Frank J. Domino, M.D., Professor of Family Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Colon cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in men and women in the US, and the 3rd in causing cancer death. This last statistic is sad, as colon cancer screening works; it prevents death from cancer, and is the most effective of all screening tests. Colon cancer screening should be initiated at age 50 years in both men and women.
Colonoscopy is the most effective method to address colon cancer. The bowel is prepared by taking some liquid and laxative to cleanse the colon. The patient is given gentle sedation administered intravenously, a fiber optic scope is inserted and the entire colon (large intestine) is examined thoroughly. It is usually performed by an experienced gastroenterologist. Another form of screening, called the “FIT” test, has the patient collect a small amount of stool. If positive, it could signal bleeding from a polyp or a cancer, and leads to a colonoscopy.