Colon cancer is the most common cancer of the digestive system. Over 140,000 cases are diagnosed, and almost 50,000 people succumb to the disease annually in the United States.
Fortunately, unlike many other cancers, effective screening tools are available that can detect colon cancer in its early stages. Typically, colon cancer begins as a polyp which evolves, or degenerates, into a cancer over a period of years. If polyps are detected and removed early, cancer can be prevented. While several colon cancer screening methods are available, colonoscopy is considered the gold standard as it goes beyond polyp detection. In most cases, polyps are removed during the procedure. In addition, when cancer itself is detected on a screening exam, it is often at an early, curable stage. It has been more than 10 years since screening colonoscopy has gained wide acceptance, and that decade has seen a steady decline in both new diagnoses of colon cancer and colon cancer deaths.
With the anesthesia provided at all of our locations, patients are comfortable and sleeping throughout the examination.
Colon cancer screening is recommended for all individuals beginning at the age of 50. Some patients, such as those with a family history of colon cancer or polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, and some hereditary conditions, may require screening earlier. The American Society for Gastroenterology recommends screening begin at age 45 for African Americans.
If colon cancer is diagnosed, surgery is usually planned, and can cure the majority of patients with early colon cancers. A multidisciplinary approach is needed for some patients, who may require radiation therapy and chemotherapy prior to and after surgery. Complex cases are often discussed at Tumor Board, where input is shared among pathologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons, and oncologists. Genetic counseling and testing is available at Hartford Hospital for families who may be at high risk of developing colon cancer.
To schedule a consultation and colon cancer screening, please contact us. In addition, upon a recommendation from a physician, Connecticut GI offers direct access colonoscopies for those who meet criteria and prefer to have a colonoscopy without a prior consultation.