DISEASES / COLON CANCER
What is colon cancer?
First of all, most colon cancers begin as a then precancerous polyp which is found in the colon. In addition, polyps can vary in size as well as type. Most importantly, they can then vary in their propensity to turn into colon cancer. Consequently, screening tests such as colonoscopy allow Gastroenterologists to then remove these potentially cancerous polyps.
Who is at risk of developing colon polyps/cancer?
Approximately a quarter of patients age 50 years old have high-risk colon polyps. Therefore, this risk increases in those with a family history of colon polyps as well as colon cancer. In addition, some patients have genetic syndromes which then increase their risk of cancer. Consequently, aside from family history as well as genetic syndromes, there are also other factors which increase your risk of developing colon polyps as well as subsequent colon cancer:
- African American Ethnicity
- Age > 50 Years Old
- Male Gender
- Diet High in Fat and Red Meat
- Tobacco and Alcohol Use
- Chronic Constipation
When should you be screened for colon cancer?
So, it is recommended that people 50 years old or African Americans at the age of 45, undergo colon cancer screening. Therefore, patients with a family history of colon polyps as well as colon cancer should be screened at age 40. In addition, patients who are 10 years younger than the afflicted relative should also be screened. Lastly, if there is established as well as suspected genetic syndromes, they may then need unique as well as more intensive screening protocols. Finally, this should happen at an earlier age.
What screening options are available?
A variety of screening options are available. However, colonoscopy then remains the gold-standard screening modality. In addition, this is the diagnosis as well as the treatment of colon polyps. In addition, this includes cancer. Finally, other tests include fecal DNA tests. This is in addition to blood DNA tests as well as virtual CT colonography.
Firstly, it is important to understand that polyps generally do NOT cause symptoms alerting you of their presence. Consequently, very large colon polyps as well as cancer can manifest with symptoms of unintentional weight loss. In addition, this includes change in bowel habits including constipation as well as diarrhea. Also this includes occult or even overt bleeding with anemia as well as abdominal pain.
In addition to a healthy diet and exercise plan, eliminating risk factors, supplementing your diet with fruits and fibers can decrease one’s risk. In addition this includes foods with high anti-oxidant content. Consequently, these have been shown to decrease one’s risk of developing colon polyps as well as subsequent cancer. Lastly, the removal of colon polyps during colonoscopy remains the most effective way to decrease your risk of colon cancer.
Finally, during a colonoscopy, colon polyps are removed using a variety of endoscopic techniques. In addition, gastroenterologists are able to biopsy polyps as well as remove them as they are in the colon. Consequently, if colon cancer is diagnosed, various treatment options are available. Lastly, these include surgery, chemotherapy as well as radiation. Furthermore, this depends on the stage.