Colon cancer is a common cancer that can be detected and prevented in many people if simple steps are followed. The rate of colon cancer among men and women is about the same, with 6 percent of women and 5 percent of men getting this disease during their lifetime.
Colon cancer ranks second only to lung cancer.
No one knows for sure what causes colon cancer, but we do know some of the risk factors. Your chances of developing colon cancer are higher if you have a history of ulcerative colitis, severe dysplasia (precancerous changes), or Crohn’s disease or if your mother, father, sister, or brother has had colon cancer.
Age plays a role, too. Most cases Occur in people over age 65. Fewer than 2 percent of cases occur in those under age 40.
The three tests most commonly used for Colon cancer screening are the digital (finger) rectal exam, testing the stool for blood and sigmoidoscopy. Screening exams can be mildly uncomfortable, but generally these tests are easy and safe to still disagree about how often should be examined and how tests detect cancer in people no symptoms. Your medical consultant can help you decide if you need tests:
A slender lighted tube called a flexible sigmoidoscope is inserted into your rectum after you have had an enema. With this device, the physician can see about 27 inches into your colon. About 80 percent of cancers and polyps (growths) that might become cancer can be found this way, because they tend to build up at the lower end of your bowel.
Stool Test for Blood
Because polyps and cancers produce small unnoticeable amounts of blood, which are carried away in the stools, tests such as “Hemoccult” or “guaiac” are used to detect bleeding. By carefully following the directions for the test, you will make the results more reliable. Some medical guidelines suggest this test is unnecessary for average risk patients.
Digital Rectal Exam
Using his or her finger, the medical provider feels for lumps (polyps) in your rectum that could be cancer. The effectiveness of this screening method is limited because less than 13 percent of colon cancers are within a finger’s reach.
If the results of any of these tests are abnormal, your medical provider will probably order more studies. Sometimes these tests are not accurate, creating either a false promise of good health or a false alarm about the frightening possibility of cancer.
Since cure by early detection is the goal of colon cancer screening, your quick response to warning signs is critical. If you have a change in your bowel habits (black stools, thin stools, blood in your stools, or intermittent or persistent diarrhea or constipation) an exam of your colon to find the cause may be done, regardless of your age. Cancer, however, is just one of the many possible causes of these symptoms.
Several dietary factors are thought to play a role in colorectal cancer. Obesity, total calorie intake, and high-fat diets have been implicated in causing cancer in both animal and human research. A diet high in fiber may be helpful in preventing colon cancer. Foods high in fiber include whole-grain cereals and breads, beans, potatoes, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.