An integral part of the job of a gastroenterologist is testing and screening for colorectal cancer, most commonly by colonoscopy. Colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death amongst both men and women in the United States, and approximately 150,000 patients are newly diagnosed each year. Colorectal cancers begin as a benign growth called a polyp, and removal of colon polyps during a colonoscopy will decrease the chance of colorectal cancer by greater than 90%. All patients over the age of 50 should be screened for colon cancer. Individuals with increased risk such as those with a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps may need to be screened earlier in their 30’s or 40’s.
Colonoscopy is the most commonly used method for screening, though alternative methods may be suitable, these may be discussed with your physician.