Why Men Shouldn't Ignore The Risk Of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is the second leading reason for cancer-related deaths in both men and women. As a man, your risk of this is higher than in women. It is a disease that can give you little warning before it becomes a major health problem. Here is how this disease can sneak into your life and what you can do to protect yourself.
A Small Problem That Becomes a Big Issue
This cancer starts as a small growth on the wall of the large intestine or rectum. These tissue masses, called polyps, grow slowly. Most remain benign and cause you no problems. A small number of polyps can become malignant and begin to grow more rapidly. These cancerous cells can quickly spread through the colon and large intestine.
As the cancer cells spread, they can invade other organs in your body. The more widespread the cancer, the harder it is to stop it from becoming life threatening. Early screening and treatment is the best approach to prevent this from becoming a life-threatening problem.
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
Starting at 50, you should have a regularly scheduled colon cancer screening. Your doctor will recommend the frequency of the screening based on several risk factors such as:
- Your current age
- Any family history of colon cancer
- The existence of an inflammatory bowel disease
The three primary tests that a clinic, such as Clinical Gastrointestinal Associates, PC, will recommend include:
- Colonoscopy - A small tube with a fiber optic camera on the end is inserted into your colon. As your doctor moves the tube through the colon, they can see the wall of the rectum and large intestine and look for polyps. Your doctor can also take tissue samples with this procedure to determine if a polyp has become malignant. A colonoscopy screening is the standard test used to uncover cancer cells in the colon.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - This test is similar to a colonoscopy, but the instrument used only examines the lower portion of the large intestine. This exam can be done in the doctor's office without anesthesia and is helpful when your doctor only needs to see part of your colon.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test - This test is done to detect blood in your stool. Malignant polyps can leak blood into the stool as they grow.
The sooner the malignant polyps are discovered, the more effective the treatments are. The common treatment options are:
- Surgical removal of the polyps - Your doctor may recommend removing polyps discovered during your colonoscopy screening that they believe are at risk of becoming malignant.
- Radiation therapy - When malignant polyps are removed, you doctor may recommend radiation therapy targeted at the site of the polyps to kill any malignant cells left in the tissue.
- Chemotherapy - When the cancer is advanced and has moved to other areas of your body, chemotherapy is required to kill the malignant cells throughout your body.