Last updated: August 8, 2022
Colon cancer, also sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer, is now the third most common diagnosed cancer in the United States. Colorectal cancer refers to the cancer that affects the parts of the large intestine which is the colon and the rectum. Around 151,030 adults were estimated to have colorectal cancer for 2022. The good thing is there has been a decreasing trend in the number of new cases of colon cancer from 1999-2017. One big factor to this is the availability of screening and early prevention of possible colon cancer. Although old age is one factor of acquiring this cancer, the rate for younger people below the age of 55 has been increasing each year. It is important to know that prevention is possible with our medical technology today.
Colon cancer may start as small, seemingly harmless clumps of cells referred to as polyps. These clumps may be benign but these may eventually lead to becoming harmful cancer cells and start the onset of colon cancer. Symptoms of colon cancer in its early stage are minimal and may seem like a normal stomach or digestive problem. Some of these symptoms include irregular bowel habits, blood in stool, cramps, gas pain, weakness and fatigue.
In its benign stage, polyps can be removed thus preventing it from turning to malignant cells. This is why screening is vital in preventing colon cancer. Luckily in our generation today, we have available methods in screening or detecting problems in our intestinal tract.
Colonoscopy is one of the screening options we currently have for colon cancer. This is a procedure where a four-foot long tube is inserted in the anus. This tube has a camera and light source at its tip. The camera and the light source allows the doctor to have a view or image of the patient’s colon and rectum.
This procedure is used to detect abnormalities in the lower part of the large intestine, which includes the colon. Many colon problems can be detected with colonoscopy and one of these is the appearance of polyps in the colon. If deemed safe, these polyps may also be removed during colonoscopy. For screening purposes, tissue samples may be collected during the procedure.
Doctors usually recommend colonoscopy once every 10 years especially for adults with age 50 and up. At this age, the risk of developing cancer cells in the colon gets higher.
Once a patient has been found with polyps in a colonoscopy, the doctor may recommend doing this procedure regularly to check for possible growth of additional polyps. These polyps may be the start of colon cancer so removing these while benign is beneficial in preventing colon cancer.