Colon cancer is not a subject you should trivialize. It is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The good news, it’s also one of the most preventable forms.
You might think when it comes to screenings, you only need to go to the doctor to check for colon cancer if you have specific symptoms. But the best way to not miss out on colon cancer is by staying vigilant. Doing this can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Not sure where to start? Follow along to learn the basics of colon cancer screening, how to check for it, and how to spot the signs.
What Is Colon Cancer?
There are many types of cancer, but one of the most common is colon cancer. Colon cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the colon, which is a part of the large intestine. The colon is responsible for removing wastes from the body and absorbing water and electrolytes.
Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas, which develop from the glandular cells in the colon lining. When colon cancer develops, the abnormal cells grow out of control and can eventually spread to other parts of the body.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
There are a few key symptoms to check for when it comes to colon cancer. First, bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool is something to watch out for. Second, changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the size or shape of the stool. The third is abdominal pain, cramping, or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you must see a doctor as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis. Colon cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages. But it is important to be aware of the potential signs so that treatment can be started immediately if necessary.
Who Is at Risk for Colon Cancer?
Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer, but the risk increases with age. Colon cancer is most likely to affect people over the age of 50, but it can also affect younger people. Other risk factors include having a family history of colon cancer, a personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps, and a history of inflammatory bowel disease.
However, the most critical factor in the development of colon cancer is lifestyle. A diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber increases the risk of colon cancer, as does a sedentary lifestyle.
How Can I Check for Colon Cancer?
There are a few different ways that you can check for colon cancer. One way is to do a digital rectal exam. This is where your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for anything abnormal.
You can also do this on your own, so you can do a self-exam every month in the comfort of your own home. There are also at-home colon cancer screening tests available to use, learn more about it here.
Stool tests are also one of the options in colon cancer screening. This is where you provide a sample of your stool to a laboratory, which will then test it for the presence of blood or abnormal cells. If blood is found in the stool, it could be an indication of colon cancer.
Another way to check is to have a colonoscopy, usually done under sedation, which takes about 30 minutes. This is where a doctor inserts a long, thin tube with a camera attached into your rectum and up through your entire colon. During a colonoscopy, the doctor can immediately check for abnormal growths, remove tissue samples for further testing, and even treat some problems.
Blood tests can also be used to check for colon cancer. The most common blood test for colon cancer is called a CEA test. This test measures the level of a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen in the blood, where elevated levels can be considered an early sign of colon cancer.
If anything abnormal is found, your doctor will remove it and have it checked for cancer. The most important thing you can do to check for colon cancer is to be consistent with these screenings. This can help catch the cancer early, which is key to a successful treatment.
What To Expect From a Colon Cancer Diagnosis?
If you have been diagnosed with colon cancer, your doctor will likely recommend various tests and procedures. This is to check for the cancer and determine the stage of the disease. It may include a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and/or a biopsy.
Colon Cancer Treatment
The treatment options for colon cancer depend on a few factors. This includes the stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health, and whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended.
Surgery is the most common treatment, and it involves removing the cancerous growth and a margin of healthy tissue around it. A less invasive surgery is also available; one of these is robotic colon surgery. It involves the use of a machine controlled by the doctor.
There are many different colon cancer treatment options available. So it is important to discuss those with a doctor to determine which is the best for the patient.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure, Check for Colon Cancer
If you’re 50 or older or have a family history of colon cancer, it’s important to check for colon cancer on yourself. There are several different types of screening tests, including digital rectal exams, colonoscopy, and stool tests. It is essential to talk to your doctor to figure out what is suitable for you and what actions you should take after.
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