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Colonoscopy for Cancer of the Colon: Hind-sight is 20-20

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Colon Cancer Prevention

 Aging is supposed to be a reward, not a punishment.  However, there are days when that may not seem to be much consolation.  Just like with a car, we can ignore maintenance at first, but after it becomes an old classic, it needs a lot more maintenance.

One human example is our search for preventable diseases.  Colon cancer is certainly one of the classic examples. 

Our society is at a high risk of the disease, for a number of reasons.  Our aging population, or changing diet with less fiber and more sugars and additives, and our increased levels of stress all mitigate increased risks of this (and other) diseases.  Because cancer of the colon is so easy to prevent, and yet so deadly if allowed to grow undiagosed, prevention trumps heroic surgery as our first option.  While prevention incorporates the usual good lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, and stress management, here are some critical elements of detection:

1.       Fecal Occult Blood test: this is a simple test kit, available from your doctor or lab, which will show trace amounts of blood in the stool.  This might be from bleeding from the gums or swallowed blood from a nosebleed, or it could come from the stomach or any part of the intestines down to the rectum.  While blood is visible as red or black discoloration in the stools, this test is sensitive enough to detect blood hidden from the human eye.  Because it is inexpensive and non-invasive, this can be done to any age group.  We often order it for patients with low iron levels, or with known bowel diseases like chron’s or ulcerative colitis.

 

2.       Colonoscopy:  This is the definitive test, routinely suggested for all adults after the age of 50.  Earlier screening is suggested for those who have any of the risk factors mentioned above, including those who have positive Fecal Occult Blood tests.

Treatment:

                1. Minor surgery:  Nip it in the bud: the point of a direct (as opposed to a “virtual” one) colonoscopy is that it will not only show any polyps, but allows the doctor to snip, zap, or otherwise eradicate them before they turn into cancers.  A classic “two-fer”, this means the diagnosis is made, and the treatment is given all during the same procedure.  For patches of suspicious cells, a biopsy can be taken which will detect diseases within a few days of lab processing. 

2.    Major surgery: If the above is too late, and the cancer has progressed into and through the wall of the colon, then full abdominal surgery is usually indicated.  Often this ends with a segment of bowel removed, and a colectomy or removal of bowel being done.  The patient is left with a colostomy bag, which is often permanent.  In some cases, the cancer may have already spread beyond the colon and into the lymph nodes, meaning that systemic chemotherapy or radiation may then be needed.

Please consider option 1, no matter how you might rather postpone or ignore it.  Those who are in denial are likely going to end up with Option 2, and for some of those, even surgery may be too late to save their lives.  Once cancer has been established,  a third of all patients will die from it.  If detected early, the survival rate should be 100%.

There are plenty of “bad luck” reasons for us to die; please don’t let “bad management” add to your risks!  Ask your doctor for a referral, and make sure you check out your colon when you are due. 

For more info on colonoscopy:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonoscopy

For more articles on colon issues, check these articles on www.stressipedia.com:

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Stress-and-Constipation-How-to-Move-Things-Along

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