Dr. Scott Seifert
Dr. Scott Seifert is currently a second-year family medicine resident at the Washington Health System. He was born and raised about 1 hour north of Washington in Gibsonia. He attended Gannon University in Erie, PA. Majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. Afterwards he attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. When he’s not working, he enjoys weightlifting, outdoor sports, and cooking.
Colon Cancer Screening
Colon and rectal cancer screening is a way in which doctors check the colon and rectum for signs of cancer or growths (called polyps) that might become cancer. It is done in people who have no symptoms and no reason to think they have cancer. The goal is to find and remove polyps before they become cancer, or to find cancer early, before it grows, spreads, or causes problems.
The colon and rectum are the last part of the digestive tract. When doctors talk about colon and rectal cancer screening, they use the term “colorectal.” That is just a shorter way of saying “colon and rectal”. It’s also possible to say just colon cancer screening.
Studies show that having colon cancer screening lowers the chance of dying from colon cancer.
Colonoscopy and FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood Test) are discussed below.
Colonoscopy allows the doctor to see directly inside the entire colon. Before you can have a colonoscopy, you must clean out your colon. You do this at home by drinking a special liquid that causes watery diarrhea for several hours. On the day of the test, you get medicine to help you relax. Then a doctor puts a thin tube into your anus and advances it into your colon. The tube has a tiny camera attached to it, so the doctor can see inside your colon. The tube also has tiny tools on the end, so the doctor can remove pieces of tissue or polyps if they are there. After polyps or pieces of tissue are removed, they are sent to a lab to be checked for cancer.
Advantages of this test – Colonoscopy finds most small polyps and almost all large polyps and cancers. If found, polyps can be removed right away. This test gives the most accurate results. If any other screening tests are done first and come back positive (abnormal), a colonoscopy will need to be done for follow-up. If you have a colonoscopy as your first test, you will probably not need a second follow-up test soon after.
Drawbacks to this test – Colonoscopy has some risks. It can cause bleeding or tear the inside of the colon, but this only happens in 1 out of 1,000 people. Also, cleaning out the bowel beforehand can be unpleasant. In certain situations, a doctor might do something called a “capsule” colonoscopy. For this test, you swallow a special capsule that contains tiny wireless video cameras. This might be done if your doctor was not able to see all of your colon during a regular colonoscopy.
“Stool” is another word for bowel movements. Stool tests most commonly check for blood in samples of stool. Cancers and polyps can bleed, and if they bleed around the time you do the stool test, then blood will show up on the test. The test can find even small amounts of blood that you can’t see in your stool. Other less serious conditions can also cause small amounts of blood in the stool, and that will show up in this test. You will have to collect small samples from your bowel movements, which you will put in a special container you get from your doctor or nurse. Then you follow the instructions to mail the container out for the testing.
Advantages of this test – This test does not involve cleaning out the colon or having any procedures.
Drawbacks to this test – Stool tests are less likely to find polyps than other screening tests. These tests also often come up abnormal even in people who do not have cancer. If a stool test shows something abnormal, doctors usually follow up with a colonoscopy.