Colon Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common preventable cancers. The colon and rectum make up the large intestine, which absorbs water and some nutrients from digested food, and stores the solid waste till it is expelled from the body. Colon cancer screening is the process of looking for polyps and cancerous growths on the inner wall of the colon and rectum, when no gastrointestinal symptoms of disease are present. A polyp is a noncancerous growth in the colon. Some of these may become cancerous later. Early detection and removal of colorectal polyps and malignant tumors can prevent complications and death due to colon cancer.
The people at high risk of colon cancer are:
- People above 50 years
- People with an inherited familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition where individuals develop a high number of polyps in the colon and rectum
- People who had colon cancer earlier
- Women with a previous history of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer
- People whose close family members such as parents, sibling or children have or had colon cancer
- People with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- People with sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits and who smoke
People should talk to their doctor for when to go for the screening and what tests to have. One or more of the following test may be used for colon cancer screening:
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Sigmoidoscope is used to view the inside of the rectum and lower colon. A finger size thick tube with a camera at the end is inserted from the rectum and images of the inner wall of rectum and part of colon can be seen on the monitor. It can be used for taking biopsy of the polyp or tumor and for removing some polyps. But colonoscopy needs to be done to view the whole colon and remove all polyps or tumors. It is fairly safe but has small risk of bowel tear, bleeding and infection.
Colonoscopy: Colonoscope is similar to sigmoidoscope but is longer than it and is used to examine the inner wall of whole of colon. It is inserted from the rectum and doctor can see the images of entire colon on the monitor. Special surgical tools can be passed through the colonoscope to take biopsy and remove polyps. Sedation is required. There is a small risk of bowel tear, bleeding or infection after the procedure.