Women should be aware that they have several options for colon cancer screening, and not only the often-dreaded colonoscopy, according to a new report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG streses that doctors should tell women about all of their colon cancer screening options — which include fairly simple at-home tests that detect blood in the stool.
In general, experts recommend that adults at average risk of colon cancer start routine screening at the age of 50, through any of several standard tests or a combination of tests. Those include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood testing (FOBT). Many medical groups consider colonoscopy the preferred screening method.
The lifetime risk of developing colon or rectal cancer is one in 19 for men and one in 20 for women, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 50,000 Americans died of the disease in 2010. However, when it comes to lowering your risk of death from colon cancer, colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy (every five years) and an annual FOBT are all effective. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — a federal expert panel — recommends that adults at average risk of colon cancer choose any of the three methods.
Many people, she noted, are turned off by the preparation for colonoscopy, which involves taking strong laxatives the day before to clean out the colon. Sigmoidoscopy requires a similar preparation, but the procedure — which only views the lower portion of the colon — is less extensive, can be done without sedation and has a lower risk of complications.