Early detection of colon cancer
All cancers, without an exception, start insidiously. The main reason for such starts is that the tissue involved is the body’s own. It is the function of one’s immune system to detect enemies of the body like foreign bodies like bacteria and viruses. It is not designed to identify bodies’ own cells as foreign or dangerous to the body. Since cancer cells are one’s own it, passes detection by the immune system. However, new researches have started to see changes in even early cancer cells and are trying to find means to sensitize the immune system so that the body itself starts attacking it and destroy them, which is akin to set a thief to catch a thief, thereby probably winning half the battle against cancer. It is fairly clear now why cancers do not produce any distinct symptoms that can be specifically attributed to cancer. Scientists, in recent time have found specific agents in blood that indicate cancers specific to certain organs called markers. This has somewhat helped early detection during routine screening, though there is a long way to go. Statistical analyses have been able to identify the age groups and races susceptible to certain cancers helping screening. This is has somewhat simplified the screening operations as it can be aimed at targeting the susceptible population.
Warning signs and symptoms of colon cancer like any other cancer comes camouflaged like some other common condition. If one has any one of the warning signs and symptoms of colon cancer, the best thing to do is to go and meet the doctor. Generally, colon cancer develops very slowly taking 4 to 6 years to spread to other portions of the body and shows its real signs and symptoms. The chances of curing are very high: as much as 90% if treated early. Here is a look at the early signs and symptoms of colon cancer.
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, narrowing of stools, or constipation, that lasts for more than a few days is probably the earliest signs and symptoms of colon cancer.
- Blood in stools or on stools. Blood in stool is often can be deducted by laboratory tests.
- A feeling of stools remaining and need to have a bowel movement. Moving the bowel never relieves the feeling.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Cramping abdominal (belly) pain.
- Dark stools, or rather significant amounts of blood in the stool.
- Unintended weight loss.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Tiredness and weakness.
- Unexplained anemia.
Apart from colon cancer, all these symptoms are exhibited by a host of other conditions like Cohn’s disease, irritated bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and hemorrhoids. A visit to your doctor will remove all anxiety about cancer and also sort out one’s problem. Even if it turns about to be cancer one has high chances of complete recovery. The general recommendation of the cancer society is any one above 50 years of age irrespective of any symptoms should undergo screening. Various tests are employed for screening and one can discuss the options available and the best suitable for the patient can be undergone.
The risk factors for one are a history of colon cancer in the family, though more cases are outside of such families. Other colon problems like chronic constipation, Cohn’s disease, familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or Lynch syndrome, and type 2 diabetes increases the risks. The doctor takes detailed history including family history to determine the risk the individual has for developing colon cancer. Then, he conducts a thorough physical examination to see if any lumps or enlarged glands are there in the abdomen. Depending on his findings he may ask for a CT scan. If cancer is seriously suspected, a colonoscopy is performed. In this a thin wire with a light and a magnifying lens is threaded up the anus and is taken through the colon. In case of any suspicious findings tissue is biopsied and the tissue later tested for abnormalities. The finds would confirm or eliminate cancer. It may as well confirm any other diagnosis. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. One can discuss with the doctor for all details and one can arrive at an educated decision on the future course.
The present recommendation for screening is people with average risks are to start screening at the age or 50 years. People with a family history scanning are recommended to start earlier. African Americans and Native Americans need to start scanning at a much earlier at the age of 45. Colon cancer is best if treatment can be initiated at precancerous stage or as early as possible by determining the signs and symptoms sooner. The best way for that is to screen the vulnerable segments of the population. A chemical called carcinoembryonic antigen, monitoring which helps to track the disease and form a firmer prognosis. If caught very early one can expect to lead a satisfactory life these days.