Monday, March 1, 2010

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer. If the cancer is found in the rectum, it is called rectal cancer. However, cancer that is found in either of these areas are also called colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer occurs when there are tiny growths/polyps of abnormal cells that lines the wall of the colon or rectum. The colon and rectum are both found in the large intestine. The symptoms may include bloody stool, abdominal pain, bleeding of the rectum or feeling tired due to anemia. Sadly in most cases, there are no symptoms.

Here's the deal - colorectal cancer advances with age. In fact, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths within the United States. However, with screening and early detection - lives are saved. The recommended age for screening begins at 50 but if you have a family history with colorectal cancer you may want to discuss with your physician.

There are several forms of screening. You really need to engage in a discussion with your physician. Find out which test will work best for you. Many have heard of the ever intrusive and some call it the dreadful colonoscopy. Dare I say, it may be considered dreadful only because it is inserted in the anal cavity and there is a bit of pre-colonoscopy preparations that must be completed. However, it accomplishes a great deal in detecting any abnormalities within the colon/rectal area and you wont have to take the test for another 10 years.

Another option would be the flexible sigmoidoscopy which a thin flexible tube known as a sigmoidoscope that is inserted into the rectum. The sigmoidoscope has a small video camera at the tip of the tube and it records the sights of the colon up to 2 feet of the large intestine. A plus for this procedure would be the ability to take tissue samples for further tests through this method and it is recommended for screening every 5 years. On the other hand, the sigmoidoscopy cannot pick up areas further along in the colon.

The fecal occult blood test is non invasive and is given annually. There is no intrusive procedures all you have to do is to smear your stool on to the cloth, pad or card which is chemically treated. The goal is to look at the results for a change in the color. If it turns blue that indicates that there is blood in the stool. Now blood in the stool can be an alarm for concern. However, it may not be cancer related therefore further tests may be ordered.

A CT scan X-rays the internal organs to make detailed pictures; a dye may be used to highlight the areas of concern. The good old reliable enema is also an option - the double contrast barium enema uses air to expand the colon which aids for better images along with the barium.

Colon cancer is one that may be prevented with a healthy well balanced diet which includes foods rich in high fiber, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Exercise is key to maintaining a healthy weight . Avoid processed meats, red meats, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Nothing is ever certain but the old saying 'an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure' really fits well right here. March is the colorectal cancer awareness month perhaps it is time to march on over to your doctors office and discuss your options.

1 comment:

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