Is a Colonoscopy the Gold Standard for Detecting Colorectal Cancer?


About 50,000 people in the United States pass away from colorectal cancer each year. Colon and rectal cancer is the second-most cause of cancer deaths for both men and women. Luckily, it is often highly treatable and, when diagnosed early, the prognosis can be quite good.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has provided approval for three kinds of home analysis tests for colon and rectal cancer. Such tests function by detecting abnormal deviations in the fecal matter, like blood or DNA markers for colorectal cancer. Though the relative simplicity of these tests might make them seem like a beneficial alternative, it is crucial to understand that colonoscopies remain the best option for identifying and preventing colon and rectal cancer. At Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates, our experienced gastroenterologists routinely provide colonoscopy screenings for New Orleans, LA patients.

Why get a colonoscopy?

Early discovery is key to effectively battling colon and rectal cancer. If cancer is found in the large intestine (colon) or rectum before it has a chance to spread, the five-year survival rate is about 90%. Although additional approaches to testing for colorectal cancer are obtainable, nothing has proved as accurate and reliable as the colonoscopy. The best weapons in the battle against colon cancer are colorectal cancer awareness and regular colonoscopies.

How will a colonoscopy exam detect colon or rectal cancer?

Before your procedure, your GI specialist will provide you with some groundwork guidelines to ensure your colon is empty throughout the procedure. These instructions typically include:

  • Adjusting medications: If you use specific prescription drugs for blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, then you might need to modify the amount you take or temporarily discontinue consuming them.

  • Fasting: You could be asked to refrain from solid food and ingest solely transparent liquids for several hours prior to your exam.

  • Taking a laxative: Your gastroenterologist might give you a laxative or "bowel prep" to empty your colon either the night before or the morning of your colonoscopy.

Throughout the exam, you will likely be provided a mild type of sedation for your comfort and then instructed to lie on your side. A flexible, narrow tube fitted with a camera on the end will be placed through your rectum. This tube, or colonoscope, is long enough to run through your entire colon. Your gastroenterologist will evaluate the images from the camera on a special monitor and screen for any abnormalities. In the event a polyp (growth) or another irregularity is identified, instruments can be utilized through the scope to take tissue samples for biopsy.

When is the best time to have a colonoscopy exam?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) proposes that patients schedule their initial colonoscopy screening at 45 years of age followed by once every decade when there is an average risk for the disease. If you have an elevated chance of having colorectal cancer, then your gastroenterologist might advise having colonoscopies at 3 to 5-year intervals. The risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Gastrointestinal diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease

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

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer

Your GI physician might also recommend a colonoscopy exam if you are noticing any of these signs or symptoms of colon and rectal cancer:

  • Chronic constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloody stools

  • Queasiness and vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

Patients in New Orleans, LA who are showing these symptoms should call Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates to consult with a gastrointestinal physician promptly.

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

While a few home screening tests have received FDA approval, a colonoscopy remains the most effective way to detect colorectal cancer. In addition, large or potentially cancerous polyps can be excised during a colonoscopy which minimizes the need for further treatments. An individual who tests positive on an at-home screening test will still need to schedule a colonoscopy to confirm the results and have any polyps taken care of.

Is it time for a colon cancer screening in New Orleans, LA?

If you are age 45 or over, having periodic colon and rectal cancer screenings is an important part of safeguarding your health. A colonoscopy at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates can help identify and prevent colon cancer, providing you a good fighting chance if the cancer is identified early on and a sense of comfort if you are cancer-free. To set up your colonoscopy in New Orleans, LA, or to learn more about protecting yourself against colorectal cancer, please reach out to our gastroenterology clinic today.