Colon Cancer Screening: What You Need to Know

Get screened! It's the best thing you can do to prevent colon cancer.

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Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States today. It’s a serious American health problem, says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Francis Giardiello, M.D.

However, there are many ways you can decrease your risk or even prevent colon cancer. The single best thing you can do to prevent colon cancer is to get screened.

Giardiello breaks down what you should know about the colon cancer screening options available today.

Why is colon cancer screening important?

Colon cancer develops from a small polyp that occurs in the lining of the colon. That small polyp slowly grows larger and larger. Once large enough, that polyp develops cancer and starts to spread.

It's important to remember the process of polyp to cancer takes about 10 years to occur. That’s plenty of time to get a screening to catch it — and get rid of it — before it turns to cancer.

Think of a polyp as a mushroom sitting on a stalk (your intestine’s lining). If a doctor identifies it on a colonoscopy, he or she can easily put a lasso (or a loop) around the stalk and cut off the mushroom. No mushroom means no cancer.