Colorectal cancer, unfortunately, is common and will affect about 4 percent of American women and about 4.5 percent of American men at some point in their lifetimes. However, the death rate from this cancer has fallen over the past few decades, likely due to increasing awareness and screenings. The colon cancer screening is the only screening test in the United States that cannot only detect colon cancer early, but also can prevent it altogether. During a colonoscopy, precancerous lesions called polyps can be removed before they can ever turn into cancer.
Because of its effectiveness, the American Cancer Society recommends adults with average risk for colorectal cancer begin screenings at age 45. For many people, this can cause some anxiety because of the uncomfortable preparation required for one of the commonly recommended tests: a colonoscopy. I like to remind my patients that the preparation for a colonoscopy is much more pleasant than the surgery, recovery, radiation, chemotherapy and high risk for death that can result if colon cancer is diagnosed because of delayed screening.
Preparing for a colonoscopy does require patients to fast for a day before the procedure, consuming only clear liquids, as well as to drink a preparation that cleanses the bowels. The Colon Clinic at Augusta Health uses a GoLYTLEY® preparation drink, divided between the night before and morning of the procedure, to cleanse the bowels. There is no eating or drinking three hours before the procedure.
Some colorectal cancer screening processes don’t require the same sort of preparation as a colonoscopy. Other tests, including the Cologard stool DNA test, require little to no preparation. It is important to remember, however, that other colon cancer screening tests (aside from colonoscopy) are used to detect cancer but are not optimal in preventing colon cancer.