Colorectal Cancer, also known as cancer of the colon or rectum, is the fourth most common cancer in the United States that affects both men and women. People who are over 50 years old are more prone to this form of cancer than younger adults.
Polyps, Cancers, and Metastasis
The colon is a part of the digestive system where wastes are stored. The rectum is the end part of the colon connected to the anus. The two form a long muscular tube, which is otherwise known as the large intestine. When tumors form in the colon and rectum from the large intestine's inner wall, they can either be polyps or cancers. Polyps are benign tumors while the malignant ones are the cancers. The malignant tumors invade the tissues nearby and spread to other parts of the body such as liver and lungs.
Metastasis is when the colon cancer has already spread to the distant organs of the body. Polyps, on the other hand, are not life-threatening and can be easily removed through a colonoscopy. But if the polyps are not removed, they can become cancerous over time.
Can it be Prevented?
Most colon cancers are already in advanced stages before they are detected. But this doesn't mean it's impossible to prevent. The most effective way to prevent this form of cancer is to detect it early and remove the precancerous polyps before they become cancerous. Because of this, regular screening is imperative.
Digital Rectal Examination / Stool Occult Blood Testing
People over the age of 40 should have annual digital examinations of the rectum. They should also have their stools tested for hidden blood. During the digital rectal examination, the doctor inserts a finger into the rectum to find if there are any abnormal growths. Stool samples obtained are examined if there is any occult or hidden blood.
This is important since tumors of the colon and rectum usually bleed slowly into the stool. Take note that the blood in the stools cannot be detected by the naked eye. If you don't see any blood in your stools, it doesn't mean that it doesn't have any. It can only be detected using chemical color conversions.
Those who are over 50 years old should have a flexible sigmoidoscopy screening test every five years. This is a rectal and lower colon examination that utilizes a viewing tube. This can detect polyps or early cancers among people who do not exhibit any symptoms. If polyps or cancers are found, colonoscopy should be in order to remove the polyps without an open surgery.
Diet rich in fat has been found as one of the common causes of colon cancer. This makes it imperative that people take on healthier diet by decreasing fat intake and at the same time increasing fiber.
Meats, eggs, dairy products, salad dressings, and oils are the major sources of fat. Tone down a bit on these foods.
Fiber, on the other hand, is present in fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat products such as breads and cereals.