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Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention

What is the Colon?

The colon is part of the digestive system. Food moves from the mouth to the stomach. Several hours later, it moves into the intestines, first the small intestine and then the large intestine. After digestion of food is finished, what's left leaves the body as waste (stool) through the rectum. The colon is the last part of the large intestine, just before the rectum.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is a tumour in the colon. It is the most common cancer of the digestive tract. Other names are adenocarcinoma of the colon and colorectal cancer (often the lower rectum and sigmoid part of the colon are involved). The cancer can also be found in the first part of the colon (cecum). Colon cancer can also spread (metastatize) to other parts of the body.

Colon cancer usually starts as a small growth (polyp) on the surface of the colon. Some polyps are harmless, but some can turn into cancer.

What are Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

Symptoms to be aware of are a change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, a change in stool size (e.g., pencil-thin) or stool appearance (e.g., black and tarry), rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain.

Sometimes no symptoms are present, but iron deficiency anemia from long-term blood loss may occur.

Early diagnosis is critical because undetected or untreated cancer usually spreads through the intestine wall into neighbouring areas and into the liver. Sometimes it can also spread to lung and bones.

How is Colon Cancer Diagnosed?

The doctor will do a complete physical examination, including a digital rectal examination (DRE), and take one or more stool samples. These samples are analysed for any occult (hidden) blood. This testing can find bleeding in the intestine, but results can be inaccurate because certain medicines or red meat may produce positive results that are really normal (false-positive results).

The doctor also looks inside the colon with a flexible tube called a colonoscope. This scope is passed through the rectum to see the whole colon. The doctor can see problem areas and biopsy (take samples of) these areas and remove any polyps. The samples are studied under a microscope to look for cancerous cells. Other tests, such as computed tomograpy (CT), of the abdomen and pelvis may be done to see whether cancer has moved to other parts of the body.

A newer screening test involves using CT only for the intestine (CT colonography). This test is also called virtual colonoscopy. Any possible problem areas found by CT colonography will need a follow-up colonoscopy to see whether they are cancerous..

DOs and DON'Ts in Diagnosing and Preventing Colon Cancer:

  • DO realize the importance of colon screening for everyone, starting at age 50 or earlier for people who have family members with colon cancer.
  • DO follow your doctor's advice.
  • DO eat a high-fiber diet.
  • DO watch your weight.
  • DO exercise. Exercising can improve your overall health.
  • DON'T forget the importance of screening
  • DON'T smoke.

For more information, see the attachments below.

Read 765 times Last modified on Saturday, 14 December 2013 20:29

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