Colon Cancer is not only the second leading cancer killer in the United States it is also the third most common form of cancer. Most cases of colon cancer start quietly, and polyps in the colon can take 10-15 years to turn cancerous and as such most people turn a “blind” eye to their bouts of constipation,usually the only symptom. Constipation is one of the reasons for the emergence of polyps in the colon. Studies have shown that if polyps are addressed early and with the cancerous polyps removed, 80% of those cancer deaths could have been avoided.
It is then imperative that one goes for a screening test for colon cancer before even the symptoms appear and especially if you have any of these high risk factors:
· History of family having colon cancer
· Your own personal history of colon disorders
· If you are more than 50 years old
Colorectal cancer screening tests come in 2 versions; one screens for both polyps and cancer, while the other screens for cancer only. It is recommended to go or the former as, during the screening if polyps are found, they can be removed before they turn cancerous. Biopsy can be done on the removed polyps to determine if cancer is present. As for the 2nd version, it is testing the stool for signs of cancer. This is a much cheaper version but will not be able to detect polyps and thus lose the opportunity to remove any polyps. The early removal of polyps before they turn cancerous is a life-saving procedure as early screening can help to prevent colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that man or woman above the age of 50 to undergo a screening test for colon cancer for early detection of this 2nd leading cancer killer in the States.
The complete screening would be the Colonoscopy, where the entire colon and rectum is examined with a camera that is inserted with the use of a flexible tube via the anus. This procedure allows for the removal of small polyps if found and the removed polyps can be checked under microscope for cancer.
Sigmoidoscopy is another screening test that is quite similar to colonoscopy except for this test, the examination is done at the final 2 feet of the colon instead of the entire colon as done in colonoscopy. This is deemed sufficient as cancer survival of the colon is limited to only the final 2 feet of the colon.
The colon and rectum are emptied and cleaned before the procedure. The doctor would prescribe laxatives and instruct you to drink clear liquids for at least a day before the test. This preparation may be the worst part of the test for some, as it means running to the toilet often the night before.
The test itself would take about half an hour if no polyps found and longer in the presence of polyps as this means added procedure of removing it. Small polyps are usually removed as they may eventually turned cancerous and this is done by looping a wire over it and cut if off from the wall by using electric current. However, if a larger polyp, tumor or any abnormality is seen, a small specimen is removed for biopsy. The test is uncomfortable, but it is usually done under sedative and most patients will feel normal once the sedative effects go off.
Colonoscopy is a safe procedure, so get one today. Don’t wait till it’s too late to prevent Colon Cancer. Remove the polyps.
by Moh Eng Bee