Why Screening For Colorectal Cancer Is So Important

Among the types of cancer that affect both men and women, colon cancer is the second leading cause of death. This cancer is slow-growing and may develop into a significant health problem before you have any symptoms. Colon cancer screening is one way to keep ahead of this disease. Here is what you need to know about colorectal cancer and how to prevent it from affecting your life.

Colorectal Cancer Basics

This cancer can appear anywhere in the tissues of the large intestine and the rectum. It starts as a polyp, or a small growth, on the wall of the intestine. Some of these polyps grow very slowly, continue to be benign, causing you no problems. Sometimes a polyp will develop cancer cells. These, too, grow slowly, but they may spread beyond the polyp into the surrounding tissue. Once there, the cancerous cells can make their way along the wall of the intestine and into the blood stream where they will travel to other organs.

Common Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

The benign polyps produce no symptoms, but the cancerous ones can cause problems in the lower intestine:

  • Constipation or diarrhea that gets worse.
  • Bloody or dark black stools.
  • Frequent abdominal pain.

If you notice any changes in your bowel habits, contact your doctor soon for an examination.

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

A screening will begin with blood tests to check for anemia, in case you are bleeding from polyps in the colon. The blood test also checks your liver function, because that is one of the organs that cancer cells spread to from the colon.

Your doctor will also test your stool for blood. They may do a digital exam, in which they feel the inside of your rectum with a gloved finger for any abnormal growths on the tissue.

You'll also be scheduled for a colonoscopy. In this procedure, a tube containing a small camera is inserted into your rectum so the doctors can look inside of the rectum and lower portion of the large intestine. If your doctor sees a suspicious polyp, they can take a tissue sample to be sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Treating Colorectal Cancer

Regular screening is important to catch this disease in its early stages. The suspicious polyps can then be removed entirely before they cause any problems. Treatment of more advanced cases of this disease include:

  • Removal of polyps and some of the tissue surrounding them when cancer cells are evident.
  • In more advanced cases where surgery may not get all of the cancerous cells, radiation therapy may be directed at the area around the polyp to kill any remaining cells.
  • For cases where the cancer cells have begun to invade other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be necessary to find and destroy those cells. To find out more, speak with someone like Clinical Gastrointestinal Associates, PC.