Dealing with a Cancer Diagnosis

A Guide On Colon Cancer Screening

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Colon cancer is a common type of cancer that affects the large intestine. It begins as noncancerous cells called polyps that occur in the colon. Doctors recommend regular colon cancer screening to test and remove the polyps before becoming cancerous. This article provides an overview of colon cancer, including causes, symptoms, and screening. 

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer occurs in the final part of the digestive system, known as the colon. The cancer starts when healthy cells inside the colon mutate and become cancerous. A cell's DNA instructs the cell on the cause of action. Essentially, healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly manner to support normal body functions. If and when the cell's DNA gets damaged and becomes cancerous, the cell will continue to divide. The unnecessary divisions lead to the accumulation of cells forming a tumor. Ultimately, the cancer cells become invasive and destroy nearby normal tissues. Besides, the cancerous cells travel to parts other than the colon, forming deposits. 

Causes of Colon Cancer

There is no known exact cause for colon cancer. However, the following factors increase the risk of developing colon cancer: 

  • Chronic intestinal inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Conditions like diabetes and obesity 
  • Family history of colon cancer 
  • Inherited genes 
  • Personal history of cancerous and noncancerous colon polyps 
  • Radiation therapy on the abdomen 
  • Sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and alcohol 

Symptoms of Colon Cancer 

The following are the significant symptoms of colon cancer: 

  • Blood in the stool due to rectal bleeding
  • Bowel habit variations, including diarrhea, constipation, and stool consistency
  • Fatigue and weakness  
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, including cramps, gas, and pain
  • Unexplained anemia 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting 

Colon Cancer Screening

The screening age depends upon an individual's risk factors, such as family history. However, the American Cancer Society recommends that individuals start regular screening for colon cancer at age 45. There are several colon cancer testing methods. The primary test is a colonoscopy to check for colorectal polyps and cancer. In this method, the doctor inserts a long and flexible scope in the rectum and colon to view and remove polyps for cancer testing. Next off, a flexible sigmoidoscopy utilizes a particular device to view inside the rectum and lower colon. However, the device is short and limited compared to a colonoscope. The doctor can order a CT colonography involving a CT scan on the abdomen and pelvis. Besides, fecal immunochemical and guaiac-based fecal occult blood tests look for hidden blood in the stool. Lastly, a fecal DNA test can detect genetic mutations by analyzing the stool. 

Book an evaluation appointment with a doctor if you experience the signs and symptoms of colon cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment for colorectal cancer is a life-saving intervention. For more information, contact a local clinic, like Gastro Health.