Colon Cancer Prevention
According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing colorectal cancer is approximately 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women. It is recommended that all men and women begin and maintain routine testing, including effective screening in the form of colonoscopies, starting at the age of 45.
Routine screenings and early detection is one of the best defenses against cancer. Colonoscopies may help to detect colorectal cancer quickly, and help doctors identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, follow up with your doctor to start a conversation about colorectal cancer and the risks. Be sure to discuss when a colonoscopy could be right for you.
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood in the stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement
- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Persistent cramping or discomfort in the lower abdomen
- An urge to have a bowel movement when the bowel is empty
- Constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days
- Decreased appetite, nausea or vomiting
- Unintentional weight loss
These symptoms can be associated with other health conditions, but ultimately your doctor can help you determine the cause or form a proper plan of action.
In most cases, colorectal cancers begin as small, noncancerous clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become cancerous. Screening helps physicians detect and remove polyps to prevent cancer from occurring.
Proactively preventing colorectal cancer also involves a healthy lifestyle. This includes daily exercise, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking. It is important to also learn about your family history. Those with an immediate relative (parent, sibling or offspring) diagnosed with colorectal cancer are two- to three-times more likely to develop the disease.
What to Expect During a Colonoscopy
Prior to the colonoscopy procuedure patients will be instructed to follow a strict preparation check list, including a special diet to follow. Shortly before the actual colonoscopy, patients will likely be given pain medication and/or a sedative to help minimize discomfort.
During the procedure, any polyps found will be removed by the doctor and tissue samples will be sent for biopsy. The procedure typically lasts 30 minutes to an hour.
If you or someone you know has received a diagnosis and are seeking additional resources, please contact our Oncology Nurse Navigator at 540.316.CARE (2273).