Screening and Early Detection
Colorectal cancer

What is screening for colorectal cancer?

Screening is the process of looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease. In CRC screening, it means looking for adenoma polyps, before they produce symptoms or become cancerous and can be removed.
Click here to view the Health Authority Abu Dhabi recommendation for colorectal cancer screening


What is Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look inside your bowel using a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the entire colon. A small video/camera is attached to the colonoscope so that pictures or video of the large bowel (colon) can be taken.

A colonoscopy helps find colon polyps, tumors, and tissue samples can also be collected and abnormal growths can be taken out. Colonoscopy is the “Gold Standard” for screening for Colorectal Cancer.

How to prepare for a colonoscopy:

You will be told to drink clear liquids for a day before the exam like plain tea or coffee with sugar but no milk. Most soft drinks are usually allowed unless they have red or purple food colorings, which could be mistaken for blood in the colon.  Do not eat or drink anything after midnight. You will need to take laxatives the day before the test and possibly an enema in the morning. Inform the doctor of all medical conditions and any medications taken regularly.

How is colonoscopy performed?

During colonoscopy, patients will be asked to lie on their left side on an examination table. A light sedative will be used to help keep patients relaxed.

The doctor will insert a colonoscope into the anus and slowly guide it through the rectum and bowel. A camera will transmit the image from inside the bowel allowing the doctor to carefully examine the bowel lining. Colonoscopy usually takes about 30 minutes, longer if a polyp is found and removed. Test results will usually be ready within 2weeks. Your doctor will inform you when you should be tested again.

The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)

The fecal immunochemical test (FIT), is a newer kind of fecal test that detects hidden blood in the stool.

Do I need to prepare for the FIT test?

There are no drug or dietary restrictions and sample collection is easy. Only one stool sample is required over one day. If the results are positive for hidden blood, a colonoscopy is required for further investigations. The test is simple, safe and painless.

You should not use the FIT if you are bleeding from a hemorrhoid or anal fissure, have blood in your urine or are a woman having your menstrual period or during the three days after the end of your period.

Positive results of a FIT do not always conclude that a person has colon cancer while negative results also fail to provide definite assurance that a person is unaffected.

HAAD recommends colonoscopy every 10 years in individuals of average risk starting from age 40 years and above for both men and women or FIT every two years.

Colon cancer prevention for people with a high risk

You are considered high Risk, if you have the following:

  1. Personal history of adenomas, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
  2. Positive family history of colorectal cancer (depending on the number of family members with disease and relation; first degree, second degree).
  3. Presence of High-Risk syndromes (Lynch syndrome, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome).

If you are high risk for developing colorectal cancer, you will need to consult your healthcare provider for the frequency of your tests. You may need to be screened earlier and more frequent..

Some treatments, including medications and surgery, have been found to reduce the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer. However, not enough evidence exists to recommend these medications to people who have an average risk of colon cancer. If you have an increased risk of colon cancer, discuss the benefits and risks of these preventive treatments with your doctor.