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Don’t put off that colorectal screening!

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. among men and women combined?

Colorectal cancer screenings can save lives, but only if people get tested. Screenings can prevent cancer through the detection and removal of precancerous growths as well as detect cancer at an early stage when treatment is usually less extensive and more successful.

There are several safe and effective tests to screen for colorectal cancer, including stool-based tests, high-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood tests, multi-target stool DNA and tests that provide a structural exam of the colon and rectum, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and CT colonography (also called virtual colonoscopy).

For those at the highest risk, access to colonoscopies should be prioritized. Those who should be given priority include those with abnormal stool-based cancer screens, patients with a family history of adenomas or cancer, patients with inflammatory bowel disease and/or patients with a genetic syndrome that elevates risk for colorectal cancer.

Cookeville Regional Medical Center offers colonoscopies and stool tests. Colonoscopies are more precise because if a patient has something come up in stool testing and needs a colonoscopy, it isn’t considered a screening anymore, it would be a diagnostic.

CRMC has what is called an “open access” program where a healthy individual who falls within guidelines for testing can get their primary care physician to send their most recent office note to the gastroenterology group who would then call the patient to ask specific questions in order to get scheduled without the need for seeing a GI specialist. This helps a lot of people in the area so they will not have to miss work for both the specialist appointment as well as testing.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam).

Preparing for a colonoscopy has also become easier with the recent approval of a sulfate-based tablet that is taken orally in a split-dose administration starting the event before a colonoscopy. The tablets offer a safe and effective alternative to liquid colonoscopy preparations.

Talk to your primary care provider about what options are right for you.