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"How can one screen the intestines for colon cancer?"

ZocdocAnswersHow can one screen the intestines for colon cancer?


How can one screen the intestines for colon cancer? I want to make sure that I don't have the same kind of cancer that my father got, but the only process I've read about seems to involve a stay in the hospital. What is the best way to get screened?


I'm sorry to hear about your father. If your father had a cancer of his colon (large intestine) rather than his small intestine, a colonoscopy is your best test. You should have this test done when you are 50 years old or when you reach 10 years younger than when your father was diagnosed, whichever comes first.

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For example, if your father had colon cancer at age 45, you should have your first colonoscopy at age 35. With the colonoscopy, you will be instructed to drink a bowel prep solution (our hospital uses GoLytely) the evening before your procedure. This prep will really clean you out. On the day of your procedure, you will be taken into the procedure room and sedating medications will be given. It is not normal practice to intubate (place a breathing tube) a patient for a colonoscopy. A gastroenterologist (gut doctor) will then feed a small camera into your rectum and through the colon to examine it. If there are suspicious areas or polyps, she/he can take a biopsy (small sample of the tissue) with other instruments that are built into the camera system. The sedating medications are effective, as most people never remember any part of the procedure. Should you have more questions about this, I suggest that you speak to your primary care physician. Aside from scheduling you for a colonoscopy, she/he will be able to answer any more questions about the procedure that you may have.

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