Colon cancer is the third leading type of cancer to cause death, with lung cancer being the first. However, it is one of the most curable when discovered early. In fact, 90% of colon cancer deaths could be prevented with a colonoscopy.
Colon polyps are growths – or fleshy tumors – that occur on the inside lining of the colon. They range in size from a tiny pea to larger than a plum. They start out as benign (non-cancerous) tumors, which is why removing them can prevent cancer. The larger the polyp, the more likely it is to contain cancer cells.
Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.
In some people, heredity plays a strong role. Diet and foods can also affect the likelihood of developing polyps and eventually cancer. This is why patients with a family history of colon cancer or polyps are advised to begin screening at a younger age than the general population.
Individuals who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and who consume large amounts of fiber and bran, are less likely to develop polyps and cancer. In addition, reducing saturated fat and meat intake is beneficial for better colon health and also provides benefits for other aspects of your health.
Studies are beginning to show that 1,000-1,500 mg of calcium (from foods or supplements) in a person’s diet have a lower incidence of colon cancer. This is because calcium regulates the growth of cells that line the inside of the colon. Of course, calcium intake is recommended for healthy bones. Some studies show that aspirin can serve as a protective agent, also – always ask your physician before starting an aspirin regimen.
The key to early detection is having the proper diagnostic tools at recommended ages and intervals or if you experience symptoms. These tools include:
Medical History. Your health history, as well as your family’s, are important to identifying risk factors for colon cancer and other diseases.
Fecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT): Colon cancers and large polyps may shed tiny quantities of blood that can only be detected by examination of stool samples.
Sigmoidoscopy: This is a visual exam of the rectum and lower colon using a lighted, flexible endoscope. For more information about this test, click here.
Colonoscopy: This is the “gold standard” of tests and examines the entire 5-6 foot long colon. It is typically performed under light to moderate sedation. Not only can a colonoscopy discover polyps, this exam allows the physician to remove the polyps at the same time.
Virtual Colonoscopy: This procedure looks for polyps or other diseases of the large intestine. Images of the large intestine are taken using computerized tomography (CT) and a 3D animated view of the inside of the large intestine is created. The patient must still undergo colonoscopy prep (bowel cleansing); in addition, virtual colonoscopy does not allow for removal of polyps during the exam.
Barium Enema: Although this test is older, it is still useful in some situations. Barium flows into the colon and X-rays are taken. The X-rays outline the shadows of polyps and cancer. As with the virtual colonoscopy, polyps cannot be removed during this exam.