Colon Cancer Screening (cont.)

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Air contrast (double contrast barium enema)

Even though double contrast barium enema has been included in screening guidelines, it is not as accurate as colonoscopy or, perhaps, virtual colonoscopy in detecting small polyps or cancers. Like virtual colonoscopy, it cannot remove polyps. Also like virtual colonoscopy, it may mistake particles of stool for polyps. In addition, as the numbers of barium enema examinations decreases, radiologists have less experience doing them, and their ability to do a good examination is decreasing. For these reasons, double contrast barium enemas are not widely used for colon cancer or polyp screening. For more information, please see the Barium Enema article.

Surveillance recommendations for individuals with higher-than-average risk of colon cancer

Many individuals are at higher than average risk for developing colon cancer because of a family history of colon cancer, history of chronic ulcerative colitis, rare hereditary colon cancer syndromes, or a history of colon polyps or cancer. Periodic surveillance colonoscopies are recommended for these individuals to remove precancerous polyps, and /or to detect early cancers.

Patients with history of colon polyps

Patients with history of colon polyps often develop polyps subsequently. Therefore, periodic surveillance colonoscopies are recommended. In individuals with only precancerous polyps that are completely removed, the usual recommendation is to repeat the colonoscopy after 3 years. If the colonoscopy at 3 years shows no recurrence of polyps, then the interval between subsequent colonoscopies is extended to 5 years.

Sometimes, doctors are not confident that all polyps have been completely removed. Examples include individuals with multiple pre-cancerous polyps, polyps that are technically difficulty to completely excise, or less than optimal visualization of the colon due to inadequate cleansing of the colon. Under these circumstances, the decision regarding the interval between surveillance colonoscopies is best arrived at jointly between the patient and the doctor. For more information, please see the Colon Polyps article.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/24/2015

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Colon Cancer Screening - Testing Question: Do you participate in colon cancer screening? What kinds of tests do you have?
Colon Cancer Screening - Experience Question: What kinds of tests and exams did you have to screen for colon cancer? Please share your story.
Colon Cancer - Colonoscopy Question: Describe your colonoscopy experience, including removal of polyps and results.
Colon Cancer - Family History Question: If you have a family history of colon cancer, at what age did you get a colonoscopy? What was the result?