Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. About 112,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer annually in the United States of America.
This data was released by the American Cancer Society. Most new cases of colon cancer begin with small cell clumps. They are called Adenomatous Polyps. Over time some of these clumps develop into dangerous cancer cells. In general, cancer occurs when healthy body cells turn into “enemies” inside your own body.
A patient will not see any early symptoms before the actual cancer cells have developed. One reason why early pre-screening examinations provide the best protection from colon cancer to develop into the dangerous illness it can be.
Common signs of colon cancer include (but are not limited to) changes in bowel habits, blood in a patients stool, recurring cramping, gas, bloating or even abdominal pain. Blood in your stool may be an early sign of cancer, but it can also indicate other conditions like hemorrhoids or minor tears in your anal area.
Recurring blood found in your stool should trigger a visit to your primary care physician as a precaution (rather safe than sorry).
Risk factors that might increase your risk of becoming sick with colon cancer. Age is a large risk factor. The typical patient is 50 years or older in age. A family history of cancer, especially colon cancer could indicate that you have a higher risk of becoming sick.
Long-standing inflammatory diseases of the colon can put you at higher risk of colon cancer.
Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The USPSTF recommends that adults age 76 to 85 ask their doctor if they should be screened.
The cancer society and other medical groups suggest people at average risk of colon cancer begin screening for the disease at age 50. That can be done in a number of ways — including a colonoscopy every 10 years, or yearly stool tests.
That recommendation is based on strong evidence that screening from age 50 onward cuts the risk of dying from colon cancer.
That evidence includes findings from several clinical trials, which are considered the “gold standard” in medicine. There is no similar support for routinely screening younger people.
The neoplasia detection rate was also 8% higher in people aged between 45-49 than it was between 50-54, leading to calls for CRC screening programmes to begin at 45 years of age.
The mean number of polyps (growths on the inner lining of the colon that can turn cancerous if left untreated) and the adenoma detection rate (proportion of individuals undergoing a colonoscopy who have one or more adenomas detected) also increased by 95.8% and 95.4% respectively between the 40-44 and 45-49 age groups.
This was far more substantial than the increase between the 45-49 and 50-54 age groups, which was 19.1% and 11.5% respectively.
These findings demonstrate that it is at 45 years old that a remarkable increase in the colorectal lesions frequency is shown, especially in the detection rate of early neoplasia.
Even when patients with a familial and personal history of polyps or cancer are excluded from the findings, there is still a noticeable increase in detection rates in patients from the age of 45.”
According to the cancer society, a “strong” family history means having a first-degree blood relative who was diagnosed with colon cancer or adenomas before age 60 — or two first-degree relatives diagnosed at any age. A first-degree relative is a parent, sibling or child.
Those people, the guidelines say, should start screening either at age 40, or 10 years before the earliest diagnosis in the family.
It’s important, that people find out their family history in order to know whether they are at average or higher risk.
Why not just screen younger people, even if it hasn’t been proven to prevent colon cancer deaths?
With any screening tests, there are risks. Less-invasive tests can give “false-positive” results that lead to needless invasive tests, and invasive tests carry a higher risk of harm.
Colonoscopies have a small risk of bleeding, bowel tears, and infections, the cancer society notes. Then there’s the expense and the unpleasant bowel preparation before the procedure.
So before subjecting healthy people to screening tests, it’s important to know that it’s worth it. That said, younger people do sometimes develop colon cancer even if they are not known to be higher-risk.
On average, Americans have between a 4 and 5 percent lifetime chance of developing colon cancer, the cancer society says. When the disease is caught early, the five-year survival rate is around 90 percent.
Tests that find Colon cancer
- Colonoscopy every 10 years.
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years.
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years..
If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done. The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done in the office is not enough. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.
The tests that can find both early cancer and polyps should be your first choice if these tests are available and you’re willing to have one of them. But the most important thing is to get tested, no matter which tests you choose. Talk to a health care provider about which tests might be right for you.
If you are at high risk of colon cancer based on family history or other factors, you may need to be screened using a different schedule. Talk with a healthcare provider about your history and the testing plan that’s best for you.
When Should I Begin to Get Screened?
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier than 50, or more often than other people, if—
- You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- You have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about—
- When to begin screening.
- Which test is right for you.
- How often to get tested.
In contrast, colon cancer screening, by definition, is done when people are symptom-free. The point is to catch cancer early or, better yet, abnormal growths that can be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous. “These findings aren’t going to change what we recommend as far as screening average-risk people.
Feature Image Credit: shutterstock.com
Inpost Image Credit: shutterstock.com & health.pa.gov