In the different endeavors or experiences mankind encounter throughout their lifetime, there is mostly a right age for everything.
The right age to start nursery school, the right age to consume alcohol, the right age to work, and the right age to get a partner just to name a few. However, when it comes to medical-related concerns, does age still matter?
Colon Cancer: What You Need To Know
Being one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States with over a hundred thousand of recorded cases in 2017 alone, colon cancer is one controversial threat.
Experts suggest that people of 50 years and above should get regular screenings for early detection and possibly early intervention or cure.
Basically, colon cancer starts with a tumor growth (adenomatous polyps) in the large intestine which later causes the growth of abnormal cells that hijack the body’s intestinal functions and may travel to other parts through the blood streams.
Colon Cancer: Symptoms
Although there are distinct symptoms often connected to colon cancer diagnosis, the possibility of other diseases or infections should not be ruled out. Nevertheless, consider getting a screening test once any of these problems start to manifest.
- Diarrhea, constipation, or stool inconsistency lasting for more than a few days to several weeks
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Rectal bleeding, dark-colored stool or bloody stool
- Feeling the need to move your bowel even after just having done so
- Unexplained fatigue or weakness
- Sudden weight loss
Colon Cancer: Who Are At Risk
Although colon cancer is usually prominent to males who are at least 50 years old and above, there are chances that anyone of any age or gender can acquire this killer if:
- There is a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed previously or if there is a family history of such disease
- One has been previously diagnosed with intestine-related disease or inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis
- There is medical history of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome which are hereditary
- One is overweight or obese
- One has a fatty diet, little fiber or calcium intake
- One does not exercise on a regular basis
- One is a smoker or is prone to second-hand smoke
- One takes alcoholic beverages too often
Colon Cancer: When To Be Screened
- Any male or female from ages 50 to 75 is at high risk of colon cancer, thus screening tests on regular intervals are highly recommended by the U.S Preventive Services Task Force.
- If one has any one of the symptoms of colon cancer, it is best to schedule an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible.
- People who have a family history of colon cancer or who have personal history of ulcerative colitis should be screened earlier than age 50.
Colon Cancer Screening
It is indeed frightening to have a colon cancer screening done mainly because nobody wants to face the possibility of actually having the disease. In addition to that, the most common procedure, colonoscopy, is invasive and could be intimidating to some.
Still, having a test done serves more benefits one could imagine. It can detect the presence of polyps and so they can be addressed before they eventually become cancerous. Also, early intervention or treatment gives patient higher chances of survival in the shortest course possible.
Luckily, there are already a number of tests one can choose from or the doctor can recommend based on the need for the procedure.
With a test kit which that can be taken home where you are most comfortable, a variety of stool-based screening tests can be done. All that needs to be done is put a stool sample on a test card or container which laboratory people will use to check the presence of polyps.
With a stool-based test, the doctor can order a:
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (Gfobt) which checks the presence of blood in the stool
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) which checks for hidden blood
- Multitargeted stool DNA test which is FIT in combination with testing for DNA biomarkers
Visualization tests are more effective and can yield faster results. Some tests include:
- Colonoscopy where a doctor inserts a tube with a tiny camera capable of taking pictures of your colon
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy which is similar to colonoscopy except a shorter and thinner tube is used
- Double-contrast barium enema which is a specialized x-ray procedure
Preparing For A Screening
Regardless of whether the physician orders to do a stool-based test or a visualization test, patients have to be physically and emotionally ready not only for the test but also for the results. In some tests, diet or fasting should be strictly observed prior to the procedure.
It would be better and more comforting to be accompanied by a relative, a friend, or a loved one before, during, and after the procedure especially if one is fearful of a positive result.
If one is afraid of the unknown, it would be fine to research or ask others who have had screenings done before, but if one is more frightened of the possibility of actually having colon cancer, then it’s best to just wait and be busy with other things.
It is very important to keep in mind that screening is done to ensure the health and well-being of a person. It is protection against late diagnosis, or prevention through early detection of tumor growths.
There is certainly no age requirement to having a screening test done. Although older people are more prone to colon cancer, having tests done earlier especially with the presence of symptoms or risks is truly beneficial especially now when reported cases of colon cancer among people younger than 50 years old are steadily rising.
After all, a person’s peace of mind is worth more than any amount of money or time that could be spent for any procedure. Also, staying healthy is staying happy.
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