In the UK, there are approximately 40,000 new cases of bowel cancer each year. It is the 3rd most common form of cancer in both men and women in the UK. Overall, about 1 in 20 people will get bowel cancer in their lifetime.
Screening can help detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be curative. Screening may also detect polyps in the colon, some of which can turn cancerous over time. Currently in the UK there are 2 types of screening for bowel cancer offered:
The so called ‘gold standard’ screening procedure for preventing colon cancer is a Colonoscopy.
In this test the bowels have to be cleared of all the faeces with strong laxatives prior to the test. A flexible camera (colonoscope) is then used to look around the whole of the large intestine (colon and rectum). The rationale for this examination is to remove any polyps found in the colon and rectum. This is not to say that all of these polyps would become cancerous, but some of them would have the potential to continue to grow and become cancerous over a number of years. Currently in the UK, colonoscopy is only offered as a screening test to individuals with a strong family history of colorectal cancer.
In the USA, the American Cancer Society Guidelines recommend that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at the age of 45. People who are deemed to be at average risk are those people with no family history of colorectal cancer, or personal history of certain types of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease.
As a result of these guidelines, many asymptomatic individuals in the USA will undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at the age of 50. If you would like to come and discuss the screening for bowel cancer in more detail, particularly with regards the use of colonoscopy, I would be very willing to discuss this with you.