Why Is a Colonoscopy the Gold Standard for Catching Colon and Rectal Cancer?


Roughly 50,000 people in the U.S. die from colon and rectal cancer annually, and it is the second-most cause of cancer fatalities for both men and women. Thankfully, it is often highly treatable and, when identified early, the outlook can be favorable.

The Food and Drug Administration has passed three types of home-based analysis tests for colorectal cancer. These exams operate by uncovering abnormal deviations in the feces, like DNA markers for colorectal cancer or bleeding. Even though the comparative ease of these tests could make them appear like an excellent substitute, it is important to note that the colonoscopy is still the gold standard for the detection and prevention of colon and rectal cancer. For individuals in DFW, a gastrointestinal specialist who can perform a colon cancer screening is available at your local Texas Digestive Disease Consultants location.

Why should you receive a colonoscopy exam?

Discovering the disease early on is key to battling colorectal cancer. If cancer is identified in the large intestine (colon) before it has an opportunity to metastasize, the five-year survival rate is about 90%. While other methods of screening for colorectal cancer are obtainable, none have shown to be as reliable and precise as the colonoscopy exam. The greatest tools in the war against colon and rectal cancer are colorectal cancer awareness and regular colonoscopies.

How is a colonoscopy performed?

Before your exam, your GI doctor will give you some home-care guidelines to make certain your bowel is clear throughout the screening. These instructions typically include:

  • Fasting: You might be asked to avoid solid food and drink only transparent fluids for several hours prior to your colonoscopy.

  • Regulating medications: If you consume certain medications for diabetes, blood pressure, or heart problems, then you may need to adjust your dosage or cease using them temporarily.

  • Consuming a laxative: Your gastroenterologist might give you a laxative or "bowel prep" to clear your colon either the evening before or the morning of your colonoscopy.

Before the colonoscopy, you will likely be administered a mild type of sedation to enhance your comfort and then be asked to rest on your side. A flexible, slender scope fitted with a video camera on the end will be inserted inside your colon through your rectum. This scope, called a colonoscope, is long enough to extend through your entire large intestine. Your colonoscopy doctor will review the live feed from the scope’s camera on an external monitor and search for anything abnormal. Should a polyp (growth) or any other abnormality be identified, special instruments can be placed through the scope to remove tissue samples for biopsy.

When is the ideal time to receive a colonoscopy procedure?

As reported by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), patients schedule their initial colonoscopy exam at 45 years of age and then once every decade when there is an average risk for the disease. If you have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer, then your gastroenterologist may suggest a screening once every 3 – 5 years. Common colon cancer risk factors include:

  • Personal history of large polyps, multiple polyps, or colorectal cancer

  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Digestive diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease

Your GI specialist might also advise having a colonoscopy if you are experiencing any of the following signs of colon cancer:

  • Blood in your stool

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Persistent constipation

  • Loose stools

Individuals in DFW who are presenting these indications should call Texas Digestive Disease Consultants to connect with a gastrointestinal specialist right away.

Why is a colonoscopy the gold standard for colorectal cancer screenings?

While a few at-home screening kits have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration, a colonoscopy is still the most effective procedure for the detection of colon cancer. Moreover, potentially cancerous or large growths can be removed with a colonoscopy which lessens the need for further procedures. An individual who tests positive on a home-based screening will still need to arrange for a colonoscopy to have the results confirmed and any polyps removed.

Need a colonoscopy in DFW?

For patients age 45 and over, receiving routine colon and rectal cancer screenings is a central part of maintaining your overall health. A colonoscopy at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants can help identify and prevent colon and rectal cancer, offering you comfort if you are cancer-free and a good fighting chance if cancer is detected early. To learn more about protecting your health against colorectal cancer or schedule a colon cancer screening in DFW, contact one of our gastroenterology offices today.