Colon cancer occurs in the bowel, colon and rectum, and is the second most common type of terminal cancer in the United States. With regular screening, colon cancer can be avoided as there are signs in the form of small growths, referred to as polyps which appear in the colon. How can colon cancer be detected? Through the use of regular screening, cancer of the colon can be detected using diagnostic tests. To prevent the instances of colon cancer, the removal of polyps, which are small lumps of cells within the colon; colon cancer is one of the slowest growing cancers.
There are various testing options available, which range based on factors such as; age, medical history and the comfort level of the patient.
Polyps are often the precursors to colon cancer but not always an indicator to the cancer that is developing. Polyps are often in the shape of mushrooms, flat and larger polyps are associated with most cases of colon cancer. There are common types of polyps: hyperplastic polyps and adenomatous polyps. Hyperplastic polyps are often less than 5mm in length and are polyps that rarely become malignant. The latter are more likely to become cancerous as they grow; these cells are different from hyperplastic cells. The larger that a polyp grows, the higher the chances that the polyp is going to develop into cancer. When the diameter of a polyp grows larger than 10mm, these chances are increased greatly.
What are the risk factors for colon cancer? Colon cancer is more prevalent and patients are at a higher risk if there is a family history of the disease. Those without a family history, but over the age of fifty should receive annual colon cancer screening. Nine out of ten patients who are diagnosed with colon cancer are aged fifty and over. For men, the chances of developing colon cancer are one in seventeen, for women, this number decreases to chances of one in seventeen. What types of tests are available for colon cancer screening? Diagnostic tests such as a colonoscopy or barium enema are recommended for patients every five to ten years, combined with an occult stool sample test completed on an annual basis. It is important that anyone in remission from the disease, or who has symptoms in the past have yearly screening for colon cancer. Early detection is essential in diagnosis and effective treatment.
Other risk factors include those who have suffered from inflammatory bowel disease in the past, or those who have evidence of polyps in their testing. This combined with screening for those patients that have cases of colon cancer within their immediate family should conduct screening on a regular basis to ensure that cases are caught early.
Interestingly enough, African Americans have higher instances of colon cancer than other races. It is important to screen at the age of forty-five, rather than age of fifty – to ensure that colon cancer is detected and treated early enough. A colonoscopy is reccomnended as cases are predominantly in the upper portion of the colon, other tests may find this difficult to diagnose.