Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘colon cancer’

Colon Cancer

Colon.jpg

Cancer of the colon and rectum is the third leading cause of cancer in men and the fourth leading cause in women and is more commonly seen in the western industrialized world.

Risk factors can include: age (50 years and older), family history of colon cancer, a high fat diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake. Most colon cancers begin from polyps in the colon which usually start out as benign, but after time can become malignant. Therefore, timely diagnosis and removal of the polyp can help to prevent the development of colon cancer, and thereby significantly decrease the mortality of this mostly preventative cancer.

A colonoscopy exam is the current best method for detecting colon polyps. During this same procedure, the doctor can easily remove the polyp. Colonoscopy is essentially painless, is an outpatient procedure, and is a small price to pay for the possible early detection of colon cancer.

The more common symptoms of colon cancer include rectal bleeding and/or blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits, a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Any of these symptoms should get you to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Your doctor will most likely do a rectal exam (don’t be shy, as this is very important), perform a rapid chemical test of a sample of your stool to check for blood, take a blood sample to check for anemia, and most likely schedule a colonoscopy exam.

Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation are also often used depending on the extent and location of the cancer.

The bottom line is that colon cancer, if diagnosed early enough, has a very favorable prognosis.  If found too late after it has metastasized (spread) to other organs, it has a much poorer survival rate.

Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening with colonoscopy and check with your health insurer about what is covered. You should begin screening if you are 50 years old or older, or if you are younger and have a family history of colon cancer.

See your doctor if you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, and if you do, don’t settle for anything less than a colonoscopy exam. Denial or delay can be a matter of life or death.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’m writing about colon cancer this week because of two recent incidents involving people I know.

One is a patient I saw last week. He is 60 years old, and because his insurance was lapsing, he asked his doctor to order a colonoscopy exam, even though he had no symptoms. Colon cancer was found before it had spread, and his treatment gives him a good chance of survival.

The other is a very close family friend. She was 47 last year when she saw her doctor for rectal bleeding. Her workup included a colonoscopy, which showed colon cancer. She is under treatment and also has a good chance of survival.

Cancer of the colon and rectum is the third leading cause of cancer in men and the fourth leading cause in women. It’s a diagnosis that is more commonly seen in the Western, industrialized world.

Risk factors can include age (50 years and older), a family history of colon cancer, a high-fat diet, smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

Most colon cancers begin from polyps in the colon, which usually start out as benign but after time can become malignant. Therefore, timely diagnosis and removal of polyps can help prevent the development of colon cancer.

A colonoscopy exam is the current best method for detecting colon polyps. During the same procedure, the doctor can easily remove any polyps. Colonoscopy is essentially painless, is an outpatient procedure and is a small price to pay for the possible early detection of colon cancer.

The more common symptoms of colon cancer include rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits, a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Any of those symptoms should sends you to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Your doctor will most likely do a rectal exam, perform a rapid chemical test of a sample of your stool to check for trace amounts of blood, take a blood sample to check for anemia and, most likely, schedule a colonoscopy exam.

Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation are also often used, depending on the extent and placement of the cancer.

The bottom line is that colon cancer, if diagnosed early enough, has a very favorable prognosis — and, if found too late, after it has metastasized (spread) to other organs, has a much poorer survival rate.

Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening if you are 50 years old or older or if you are younger and have a family history of colon cancer. Especially see your doctor if you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Don’t settle for anything less than a colonoscopy exam if you have persistent symptoms. Denial or delay can be a matter of life or death.

Read Full Post »

We all need to be aware of and proactive about certain health maintenance issues that can contribute to our well-being and prolong our lives. I would like to describe some of these important health issues for adults to consider.

First of all, I’d like to address the fact that 12,000 women are diagnosed yearly in the U.S. with cervical cancer. A Pap smear to detect this disease can be done during a routine pelvic exam. One should start having the test after becoming sexually active, or by age 18. It needs to be done once a year until a woman has had at least three normal Pap tests in a row. After that, it should be done every three years until age 65, when the chance of cervical cancer drops significantly.

Women also need to examine their breasts to detect breast cancer, which is the second leading cause of death in women, affecting almost 300,000 women annually.

Self breast exams should be done monthly, beginning about age 20. Women should talk to a doctor about how to check their breasts and have a doctor check them every year or two. A good guide for self breast exams can be found online at http://www.breastcancer.org. Go to “Symptoms and diagnosis,” to “Screening and testing,” to “Breast self exam” and finally to “Five steps to breast exam.” It is worth the effort to check it out.

Women should also have mammograms every one or two years beginning at age 40.

Men need to be concerned about prostate cancer. This disease affects as many as 235,000 men a year and is fatal to 28,000. There is an old saying in medicine that if a man lives long enough, he will develop prostate cancer.

Many of us may remember a popular musician from the 70s and 80s named Dan Fogelberg. He recently died of prostate cancer at age 56. He was diagnosed several years before his death and became an avid spokesman for men to have routine prostate exams, especially beginning by age 50.

Yearly PSA blood tests and a rectal exam by a doctor should begin at age 50 and continue until age 70.

Both men and women need to be screened for colon cancer, another leading cause of death. About 150,000 cases are reported per year. This disease is seen rarely before age 40. Colonoscopy has become exceedingly popular as the recommended diagnostic tool for the detection of the colon cancer beginning at age 50, and it should be done every seven to 10 years.

All the above recommendations are general guidelines. If a person has a family history of a particular disease or other known risk factors, consultation with a doctor may provide a more specific plan.

I know the thought of undergoing a pelvic or rectal exam is unappealing to most people, but over the years, I have witnessed many lives saved by those who are willing to follow these precautionary steps by working with their doctor.

The life you save can truly be your own.

Read Full Post »