Why a Colonoscopy is the Gold Standard for Colorectal Cancer Detection


Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among adults and roughly 50,000 people in the U.S. pass away from the disease each year. Fortunately, colorectal cancer is commonly treatable and, when identified early, the prognosis can be very positive.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued approval of three kinds of home-based tests for colon and rectal cancer. These exams work by uncovering abnormal changes in the stool, such as DNA markers for colon and rectal cancer or the presence of blood. Though the comparative ease of these tests could make them feel like an excellent alternative, it is critical to recognize that the colonoscopy continues to be the benchmark for the detection and prevention of colon and rectal cancer. At GastroArkansas, our gastroenterologists routinely perform colonoscopy exams for Little Rock, AR patients.

Why get a colon cancer screening?

Prompt detection is crucial to battling colon and rectal cancer. If cancer is discovered in the colon or rectum before it has time to spread, the five-year survival rate is close to 90%. Although different methods of testing for colorectal cancer are obtainable, not one has proved as reliable and precise as the colonoscopy exam. The best tools in the war against colorectal cancer are colorectal cancer awareness and having routine colonoscopies.

What is the colonoscopy process?

Prior to your procedure, your gastroenterologist will give you preparation guidelines to ensure your bowel is empty during the exam. These directions can include:

  • Adjusting medications: If you take specific medicines for heart problems, diabetes, or blood pressure, you may need to adapt your dosage or possibly discontinue taking them temporarily.

  • Taking a laxative: Your gastroenterologist might offer you a laxative or "bowel prep" to empty your bowels either the evening prior to or the day of your screening.

  • Fasting: You might be required to forgo solid food and ingest transparent liquids for a day prior to your screening.

During the procedure, you will likely be mildly sedated to help you relax and then directed to rest on your side. A slender, pliable tube fitted with a video camera on the end will be passed through your rectum. Called a colonoscope, this tube is long enough to run through the entire large intestine (colon). Your colonoscopy doctor will view the video from the colonoscope's camera on a special monitor and screen for any irregularities. If a polyp (growth) or another area of concern is identified, instruments can be utilized through the colonoscope to take tissue samples for biopsy means.

When is it recommended to schedule a colonoscopy?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) proposes that patients schedule their initial colonoscopy exam when they are 45 years of age followed by once every ten years if they have an average risk for the disease. Should you have an increased chance of developing colorectal cancer, your GI specialist might recommend a screening every 3 – 5 years. Colorectal cancer risk factors include:

  • Family history of colon cancer

  • Type 2 diabetes

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

  • Gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Your GI physician might also advise having a colonoscopy screening if you are noticing any of these symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Blood in your stool

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • On-going constipation

Individuals in Little Rock, AR who are having these signs should contact GastroArkansas to meet with GI specialist promptly.

Why are colonoscopies considered the gold standard?

While select home-based screening tests have been given FDA approval, a colonoscopy is still the most effective procedure for the detection of cancer in the colon or rectum. Moreover, large or potentially malignant polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy which lessens the need for further treatments. An individual who tests positive on a home-based screening will still need to have a colonoscopy to confirm the test results and remove any cancerous or precancerous polyps.

Is it time for your screening? Schedule a colonoscopy in Little Rock, AR

For individuals age 45 and older, having regular colon and rectal cancer screenings is an important part of preserving your well-being. Colonoscopies at GastroArkansas can help detect and prevent colon and rectal cancer, providing you a good fighting chance if the cancer is caught early and peace of mind if you are cancer-free. To schedule a routine colonoscopy in Little Rock, AR, or for more information about protecting yourself against colorectal cancer, please reach out to our GI team right away.