March 5, 2019 2:46 pm
COLON CANCER is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Watch this video to learn how you can prevent it. Learn how through simple screening tests like a colonoscopy you can catch this early before it becomes a problem.
Common symptoms of colon cancer are:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
If you have any of these symptoms you need to be evaluated by your doctor! To prevent colon cancer it’s important to understand a little bit about how it comes about. Colon cancer starts as a little growth in the colon wall. We call it a polyp. Certain kinds of polyp’s if left alone can turn into colon cancer. The problem about these polyps, is that if left alone, over time can turn into a cancer.
Who should be Screened?
- Everybody over the age of 50*
- If you have a family history of colon cancer in parents or siblings 10 years before the earliest age of diagnosis.*
*Whichever is earlier
So what are your options for screening?
Early Detection Approach:
Fecal Immunochemical Test or FIT test: This test looks for hidden blood in the stool which can be an early sign of colon cancer. This test needs to be done every year in order to be helpful. Usually you are given a card by your doctor or the lab and you put some stool on it and send it into be evaluated.
Cologuard: This test is done through a prescription from your doctor. It’s a stool test as well, but this looks for evidence of DNA of colon cancers and certain kind of high-risk precancerous lesions in the colon. This is a decent test and is recommended that you do it every 3 years. It’s not a perfect test, nothing is, butit does a good job in catching things early. The Good thing about this, is that it is non-invasive, you don’t have to do it as often as the other stool test, however it is more expensive. It’s typically around $600 and not all insurances will cover this. You’d have to check with your’s on whether they do. If you have a family history of colon cancer or symptoms then this test is not appropriate.
CT Colonography: This is the CT Scan or x-ray study that is looking for colon cancers. Unfortunately this hasn’t turned out to be as promising as we had hoped. It also comes with the added problem that you still have to do the colon prep for it, which for anybody who has done a colonoscopy knows is the worst part of the procedure.
Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a procedure where you do some sort of preparation by taking things that will clean your colon out. There are a few different ways to do this but it is very important that you do it well. If you don’t get a clear colon you can’t get a good study. Once you are clear the doctor who does this will sedate you so you don’t know what is going on. They then take a small tube shaped camera and get a better look at your colon.
Now, how does this help you prevent colon cancer you may be asking? We’ll remember how we talked about the start of colon cancer begins with a small growth in the colon wall. If left alone, this polyp has the chance of turning into colon cancer. Now the problem with polyps is they don’t have symptoms. You don’t feel them, you don’t know that you have them. There isn’t a way to know unless you go looking for them. And unfortunately if you wait until you start having symptoms then it often times can be too late.
So in a colonoscopy, they are able to get in the colon, and look around for these polyps. If they find them, they can remove them right then, and you can potentially cure a cancer before its even able to turn into one. That’s the beauty of this procedure. Now are their risks, certainly. Is it something that you’d want to do all the time, we’ll no, but it is sure better than getting colon cancer. The best part about it though is that if it is normal and you don’t have a strong family history of colon cancer, then you don’t have to worry about it for 10 years. Now, if they do find a polyp, depending on how many or what type it is, you may have to do it more frequent.
So for a 20 minute procedure and a half day of your life you can prevent the third most common cancer in the United States.
Talk to your doctor about what type of screening is best for you.
Categorised in: Monthly Features