ARE YOU AT RISK? SOME STARTLING FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT COLON CANCER
THE FACTS ABOUT COLORECTAL CANCER
- THE THIRD MOST COMMON CANCER WORLDWIDE
- FOURTH MOST COMMON CANCER IN THE U.S.
- THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE, OVERALL, OF ALL CANCER-RELATED MORTALITY, AFTER LUNG CANCER
- THERE IS A 6% LIFETIME CHANCE OF DEVELOPING COLORECTAL CANCER IN AN AVERAGE-RISK PERSON.
- SOME TYPES OF COLON POLYPS CAN BECOME MALIGNANT…THE LARGER THE POLYP, THE MORE LIKELY IT IS TO CONTAIN CANCER CELLS.
- HEREDITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF COLON POLYPS AND CANCER.
- A WESTERNIZED DIET OF HIGH FAT AND LOW FIBER INCREASES THE INCIDENCE OF COLON CANCER.
- COLON CANCER IS ONE OF THE MORE CURABLE FORMS OF CANCER WHEN FOUND IN AN EARLY STAGE
- INDIVIDUALS WITH A FAMILY HISTORY OF COLON CANCER SHOULD BE CHECKED AT AGE 40 AND EVERY 3-5 YEARS THEREAFTER WITH A COLONOSCOPY.
HOW COLON CANCER DEVELOPS
Colon cancer begins in the cells that line the colon. There is strong medical evidence that there is an abnormal gene for colon polyps and cancer. This gene can be passed from parent to child.
The genes within each cell are the hereditary structures that tell the cell what it should do. It is becoming increasingly clear that certain of these genes control the growth of the cells on the lining of the colon. When these genes are absent there is a tendency to grow polyps which can eventually turn into cancer.
THE RISK FACTORS
This is the most important factor in the development of colon polyps and cancer. Individuals whose parents, brothers or sisters have colon polyps or cancer are an an increased risk of developing colon polyps or cancer themselves. In fact, the more relatives an individual has who develop polyps or cancer, and the earlier in life those people do so, the more likely that individual will develop polyps or cancer as well.
- CONTRIBUTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Certain conditions, such as hereditary polyposis, lead to colon cancer 100 percent of the time. In addition, females who have genital or breast cancer are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Finally, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, over time, can lead to colon malignancy.
COLON POLYPS AND CANCER
A polyp is a growth that can occur in the colon and other organs, such as the stomach. In the colon, these growths, or fleshy tumors occur on the inside lining of the colon. Polyps come in different shapes and sizes. Some can be flat and others are shaped like a mushroom or a dome-like button. Polyps can be as small as a pea or larger than a plum. It is important to note that while colon polyps start out as benign (non-cancerous) tumors, some polyps, in time, can become malignant (cancerous). In fact, in most cases, the larger the polyp, the more likely it is to contain cancer cells.
HOW TO PREVENT AND CURE COLON CANCER
EARLY DETECTION! EARLY DETECTION! EARLY DETECTION!
The key to early detection of colon polyps and cancer is the concern and willingness of each person to seek medical attention from a physician. While cancer of the colon is a serious malignancy, it is readily detectable.
Screening tests used in our office such as testing for blood in the stool and routine sigmoidoscopy, which examines the rectum and a small portion of the lower colon, are often good initial tests. They are not, however, as thorough or as reliable as a colonoscopy to find polyps or cancers. During a colonoscopy, the physician examines the rectum and each section of the large intestine using a flexible colonoscope that can be directed and moved around the many bends in the colon. A tiny, optically sensitive computer chip at the end of the scope transmits the image onto a large video screen, which enables the doctor to detect polyps, tumors or other abnormalities.
These scopes also allow other instruments to be passed in order to perform other procedures such as biopsies, polypectomies (removal of polyps) or injection of solutions needed to elevate polyps or mark a specific area. If a polyp is encountered, a thin wire snare is used to lass it and electrocautery (electrical heat) is applied to remove it painlessly.
Colon cancer is one of the more curable forms of cancer. Statistcs show a 90% reduction in expected colon cancer by having benign polyps removed and a 95% reduction in colon cancer deaths.
Individuals with a family history of colon cancer should be checked at age 40 and every 3-5 years thereafter with a colonoscopy.