Mention colon cancer screening and people’s minds often leap straight to colonoscopy – a medical procedure where a doctor examines the rectum and colon lining using a thin, tube-like instrument.
If someone has symptoms of colon cancer such as rectal bleeding or a first-degree family history (parent, sibling or child diagnosed with colon cancer), they should talk to their family doctor or nurse practitioner about a colonoscopy.
“For most people, there’s a much simpler way to screen for signs of colon cancer. And it can be done in the privacy of their own home,” says Dr. Barry Lumb, physician in chief for Hamilton Health Sciences, regional endoscopy lead for ColonCancerCheck and professor with McMaster University’s Department of Medicine.
“someone could have colon cancer and not know it”
The Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) is a painless cancer screening test that checks a person’s stool for tiny drops of blood, which can be caused by colon cancer. This free test is recommended for men and women ages 50 – 74 every two years. If the FOBT comes back positive, the next step is to have a colonoscopy for a closer look.
So why make time for the FOBT?
“Without getting checked, someone could have colon cancer and not know it,” says Dr. Lumb. “Getting checked with the FOBT can help find colon cancer early, before there are symptoms such as abdominal pain or weight loss. When found early, colon cancer is very treatable.”
Regular screening means that you can also find colon polyps, which are not malignant. Removing these polyps can prevent colon cancer. When colon cancer is caught early, nine out of 10 people with the disease can be cured. If colon cancer is caught later, it is harder to treat and beating it is less likely. Only about one out of seven people whose colon cancer is caught at a later stage will be cured.
The FOBT is available from your healthcare provider. If you’re due for screening, or overdue, talk to your healthcare provider about the FOBT. More information is available at hnhbscreenforlife.ca
What if I do need a colonoscopy?
If you need a colonoscopy for one of the reasons mentioned above, it’s important not to delay booking the procedure. The prospect of a colonoscopy can be scary for some people, but it doesn’t need to be. Want to know what to expect?
Dan Logan, a patient at Hamilton Health Sciences was brave enough to share his colonoscopy experience on Facebook Live. In the video below, Dr. Barry Lumb talks Dan and an audience of viewers through the colonoscopy experience. Watch the video and click here to learn more about what prompted Dan to share this experience.