Detection of Colorectal Cancer
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Not including skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and women and the second highest cause of cancer deaths in the US. Yet when detected early, it is highly curable. This type of cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in the lining of the large intestine (colon) or rectum.
How It Starts
Colorectal cancers often begin as polyps-benign growths on the interior surface of the colon. The two most common types of intestinal polyps are adenomas and hyperplastic polyps. They develop when there are errors in the way cells grow and repair the lining of the colon. Most polyps remain benign but some have the potential to turn cancerous. Removing them early prevents colorectal cancer.
Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer
If testing reveals a possible tumor, the next step is a biopsy. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will remove polyps and take tissue samples from any parts of the colon that look unusual. This tissue is examined under a microscope to determine whether or not it is cancerous.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Because colorectal screening is stealthy, screenings are the key to early detection. Beginning at age 50, most people should schedule a colonoscopy every 10 years. This procedure uses a tiny camera to examine the entire colon and rectum. These tests not only find tumors early, but can usually prevent colorectal cancer by removing any polyps found during this procedure.
X-Rays of The Colon (Lower Gi)
X-rays of the colon can be produced by using a chalky liquid known as barium as a contrasting agent. This allows your doctor a glimpse as the interior of the colon and rectum, offering another way to detect polyps, tumors and changes in the intestinal tissue. Like the virtual colonoscopy, any abnormalities that appear on the x-rays will need to be followed up with a conventional colonoscopy.
There are steps you can take to dramatically reduce your odds of developing colorectal cancer. Researchers estimate that eating a nutritious diet, getting enough exercise and controlling body fat could prevent 45% of colorectal cancers. The National Cancer Institute recommends a low-fat diet that includes plenty of fiber and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Read about our Gastroenterology Department
Physical Activity appears to be a powerful weapon in the defense against colorectal cancer. In one study, the most active participants were 24% less likely to have the cancer than the least active people. It did not matter whether the activity was linked to work or play. The American Cancer Society recommends exercising five or more days a week for at least 30 minutes per day.
Risk Factors: Factors You Cannot Control
Your risk of colorectal cancer depends on genetics and lifestyle.
- Age-most patients are older than 50
- Polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- History of ovarian or breast cancer
Risk Factors: Factors You Can Control
Some factors that raise the risk of colorectal cancer are within your control.
-Diet high in red or processed meats or meats cooked at high temperatures
-Being overweight (excess fat around the waist)
-Exercising too little
-Smoking or drinking alcohol
The outlook for your recovery depends on the stage of your cancer, with higher stages meaning more serious cancer. The five-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least five years after being diagnosed. Stage I has 74% five-years survival rate while stage IV has a five-year survival rate of only 6%.