Nearly all colon cancers begin as benign polyps that slowly develop into
cancer. In many cases, colorectal cancer symptoms do not appear until
the tumor is large. That is why screening colonoscopy is so critical in
detecting polyps before they have turned into cancer. The symptoms of
colorectal cancer include:
- Pain and tenderness in the abdomen
- Diarrhea, constipation or changes in bowel movements
- Blood in the stool, or narrow stools
- Weight loss for unknown reasons
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screening guide for Colorectal Cancer and other prevalent cancer screenings.
Individuals at risk for colorectal cancer
Research has shown that some risk factors are present for developing colorectal
cancer. These colorectal cancer risk factors include:
Age – More than 90 percent of people with this disease are diagnosed after age
50. The average age of diagnosis is mid 60’s.
Colorectal polyps – Most polyps are benign, but some can be cancerous. Consistently
finding and removing polyps can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Oftentimes, polyps are what become cancer.
A family history – individuals who have close relatives with a history of colorectal cancer
are more likely to develop the disease themselves.
Behavioral risk factors – Including tobacco and alcohol, physical inactivity and obesity
Hereditary Colon Cancer
As mentioned above, a risk for colorectal cancer could be family history.
About 10% of colon cancer cases are due to an inherited genetic susceptibility.
Hereditary colon cancer can be divided into two broad categories: polyposis
(many polyps) and nonpolyposis syndromes (few or no polyps). Familial
adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and MYH-associated polyposis (MAP) are the
most prevalent of the former category, and Lynch syndrome (LS) is the
most common of the latter. Features of hereditary colon cancer susceptibility
in a family include one or more of the following: individuals with multiple
colorectal polyps, multiple relatives on the same side of the family with
colon or other LS-related cancers (rectal, uterine, ovarian, renal, or
other gastrointestinal cancers), individuals with more than one primary
tumor, and colon cancer diagnosed under age 50.
Early detection is key to survival
Colorectal cancer can be avoided if routine proper screening takes place.
Hoag Family Cancer Institute recommends routine screening colonoscopies
for men and women beginning at age 50, with subsequent intervals for retesting
as determined by a physician.
What is a colonoscopy?
The gold standard in colorectal cancer screening is colonoscopy. A traditional
screening colonoscopy is a short outpatient procedure that uses a flexible
enodoscope to travel through the colon to most accurately visualize abnormalities
or polyps, and look for early signs of colorectal cancer. During the procedure,
suspicious polyps can be removed, substantially reducing the risk of colorectal
cancer over a patient’s lifetime.
While there are other screening options, such as a virtual screening colonoscopy
– which utilizes CT scanning to detect polyps – non are superior
to a conventional colonoscopy. Individuals receive a virtual colonoscopy
for special circumstances, such as being too sick or weak for the more
invasive conventional colonoscopy or being on blood thinners. However,
if during a virtual colonoscopy a polyps or suspicious mass is detected,
that individual will still need to go through a conventional colonoscopy
to remove the polyp.
A conventional screening colonoscopy also acts as a means of colorectal
cancer diagnosis. The polyps removed during a screening colonoscopy are
biopsied to ensure that there are no signs of precancerous or cancerous changes.
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