Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., just behind lung cancer which remains the number one killer. What’s important to know about cancer in the colon or rectum is that it’s much easier to stop in the early stages. It’s one of the most curable cancers, if found early enough. This is why screening may be very important to safeguard your health.
Colon cancer is often mistakenly seen as a man’s disease—but according to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing colon cancer is one in 20 for women and one in 19 for men. It can affect anyone, but adults over the age of 50 are more at risk than others. Before colon cancer becomes a full-fledged disease, two types of pre-tumors may develop. The first is called a polyp, while the second is called a nonpolypoid lesion. Both of these states are distinguished by abnormal cell growth. These aberrant cells can grow and develop into colorectal cancer.
And considering early diagnosis is the key to beating colon cancer, it’s vital to understand your screening options.
The screening process is meant to identify any polyps and/or nonpolypoid lesions, and deal with these problems before they escalate and cause more advanced tumors. Screening for polyps and/or nonpolypoid lesions is definitely not something that a person would enjoy volunteering for. In fact, it’s something that you might feel like avoiding. Nobody wants to have their rectum examined or their colon probed with various instruments and or drugs.
This is completely understandable, but nevertheless, colon cancer screening has been proven to reduce mortality rates. To get you signed onto the screening program, here’s some information about basic tests that can be used to screen for colorectal cancer. Reading about the tests in a logical, clear, and matter-of-fact way will help reduce your apprehensions—as the saying goes: “better the enemy you know, than the one you don’t.”
MORE: Fear of colonoscopies?
Colorectal screening can involve a fecal occult blood test (FOBT). There are two forms of this test: the guaiac and the immunohistochemical. Guaiac is a chemical that’s used to detect heme—the part of your blood that contains iron. This is done by checking your stool. You may have to provide three different stool samples to get an accurate guaiac FOBT. An immunohistochemical FOBT looks for hemoglobin in stool samples too, but utilizes antibodies instead of guaiac.
Another common screening method is to perform a sigmoidoscopy. This lighted scope searches the rectum and lower colon looking for both cancerous and pre-cancerous growths. It’s necessary to cleanse the colon before this test can be performed. Any precancerous or cancerous growth in the upper colon won’t be detected with this test.
The next screening method is the colonoscopy. This is usually the test that everyone’s heard about and which causes many people to avoid colorectal screening. Unlike a sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy searches the rectum and the entire colon looking for polyps and other growths. Most patients are usually sedated when a colonoscopy is performed.
A virtual colonoscopy may be an option for those who don’t want to sign up for a regular colonoscopy. Special x-rays are taken of the colon and rectum and then an entire picture of both is pieced together. Detailed images can show whether there are any abnormal growth patterns.
The last type of colorectal screening method to consider is the double contrast barium enema (DCBE). Just like with the virtual colonoscopy, x-rays are taken of the rectum and colon. However, the patient is given an enema with barium. Air is also put into the colon. Both these measures help to give clearer x-rays that outline the colon. However, the DCBE is only about half as effective as a standard colonoscopy when it comes to detecting cancer.
Knowing your options can help you decide how to make the right screening choice.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Colon Cancer Check,” Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care website; http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/coloncancercheck/, last accessed online May 21, 2013.
Baxter, N., “Low screening numbers for colon cancer being investigated,” The Toronto Star website, May 23, 2013; http://www.thestar.com/life/cancerresource/2013/03/01/low_screening_numbers_for_colon_cancer_being_investigated.html, last accessed online May 23, 2013.
“Colorectal Cancer Screening Options,” American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website; http://www.screen4coloncancer.org/screeningOptions.asp, last accessed May 22, 2013.Source(s) for Today’s Article: