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Colon Cancer

Cancer affecting the colon and rectum is a serious, but very preventable disease. It is the third most common cause of cancer in both men and women; it is also, overall, the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. For every three individuals diagnosed with a cancer of the colon or rectum, one will ultimately die of the disease.

Why should I be screened or tested?

Fortunately, the medical community has a good understanding of the process by which most forms of colorectal cancer originates and progresses. In the vast majority of people, the process starts with the development of a polyp: a small, wart-like or mole-like growth on the inner lining of the colon that is almost always symptom-free in its early stages. Polyps can occur at any age, but in average people without a family or personal history of certain diseases (beyond the scope of this short article) the chance of having polyps gets much higher at and after age 50.

There are different types of polyps, with different degrees of importance. They all look pretty much the same to the eye when they are small and the only way to really know the difference is to have it sampled or, more ideally, removed and looked at under a microscope. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do without any discomfort or surgery. If a pre-cancerous polyp is left in place or left undetected, there is a risk that with time, it will continue to grow and enlarge and gradually transform into a cancerous tumor. Even at this stage, there may be no particular symptoms to call attention to it.There are no early symptoms of colorectal cancer...when symptoms appear, the cancer is typically much more difficult to treat. The benefit of screening is that a doctor can not only look for, but also REMOVE these small growths (at the same time) BEFORE they turn into cancer. It is one of the few types of cancer that can be caught this early, and actually PREVENTED.

Colon Cancer warning signs to watch for:

Although polyps and the early stages of colorectal cancer usually present no symptoms there are warning signs to watch for. The key to surviving this disease is early detection and this means finding it before there are symptoms.

  • A change in bowel habits

  • Either diarrhea or constipation

  • Blood in the stool (bright red, black or very dark)

  • Narrowed stools (about the thickness of a pencil)

  • Bloating, fullness or abdominal cramps

  • A feeling that the bowel does not empty completely

  • Frequent gas pains

  • Weight loss without dieting

  • Continuing fatigue

  • Unexplained anemia

Your risk for Colorectal Cancer:

Your chance of developing colorectal cancer increases with your age. Also personal and family history increases the risk, as does a high fat, low-fiber diet. Men and women are affected by cancer of the colon or rectum about equally. Most importantly, risk exists and it's essential that you are screened regularly if you are over 50, or over 40 if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.

The bottom line is... if you are 50 or over, OR have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, take action and talk to your doctor about what method may be best for you. Recommendations are typically tailored to the individual patient, and include considerations into the patient's past medical and surgical history, age, and family history of other diseases. Your health insurance company can tell you if screening colonoscopy is a covered benefit under your policy.

To learn more about colorectal cancer screenings call us today! 717-741-1414