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Carbondale, PA
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Rate of Colon Cancer Can Be Greatly Reduced

          Some cancers strike with no warning.  While medical research continues to reveal new clues about how various cancers develop and grow, some remain elusive. 

          The good news regarding colon cancer is how much is known about its detection, treatment and prevention.  Usually a disease with slow growth, the cancer can be detected in its “precancerous” state before it turns malignant.  Several screening and early detection studies are available to prevent this disease.  However the hardest hurdle in eliminating this disease may be patient awareness.

          “This is a disease that almost no one needs to die from,” according to Dr. Nayan Shah, board certified gastroenterologist at Marian Community Hospital.  “Provided that it is caught in its earliest, most treatable stages, colorectal cancer is curable more than 90 percent of the time.  If more people underwent routine screening to find small polyps, experts estimate the death roll would drop 50 to 75 percent, saving around 30,000 to 40,000 lives a year.”

          “There are probably more myths, misconceptions and fears about colon cancer than about any other killer disease,” added the specialist.  “Young people think only old people get it and many women think only met get it.  Often many people don’t even want to think about it at all.  Just the thought of a full-scale colon exam is enough to prevent many people from having the very screening test that could save their lives.”

          Colorectal cancer is usually very preventable because of the nature of the disease.  Nearly all colon cancers start as polyps; tiny grape-like projections that sprout on the inside of the large intestine.  Most of the time these growths are benign, but occasionally a collections of cells will get bigger and bigger until it turns into a tumor.  It usually takes precancerous polyps five to eight years to develop so regular screening is the best method of detection. 

          The American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are promoting colon cancer awareness and the importance of getting screened.  The recommendations are for people to start screenings by the age of 50.  However, if there is a family history or other reasons for concern, screenings can start in the 30s or 40s.

          The simplest screening is the fecal occult blood test which screens for traces of blood in the stool, a possible sign of polyps or tumor in the colon.  Newer screenings  include test pads which are simply placed in the toilet after a bowel movement.  Patients watch for a color change then flush the contents away  This clean and disposable method eliminates stool handling; overcoming the number one patient objection to occult blood testing.

          The  general guidelines are for everyone to receive a fecal occult blood test annually by the age of 50.  More sophisticated screening tools include the flexible sigmoidoscopy, double contrast barium enema and a colonoscopy.  Family history and various risk factors will determine when these tests should be given and their specific intervals.

          Many people with colon cancer have no symptoms at all, until the cancer advances.  This makes routine screening for colon cancer and knowledge of risk factors very important.  Many of the symptoms of colon cancer are also symptoms of other diseases of the colon.  It is very important that see your doctor if you are having any of the following symptoms:

·        Bleeding - Blood may be visible, however it may be more common to be hidden in the stool.  Many other things, like hemorrhoids can also cause bleeding. 

·        Pain - If a tumor obstructs the colon, it can cause pain and swelling, as well as nausea and vomiting.  The pain itself can run the gamut from sharp and pointed to vague and dull.

·        Unexpected weight loss - Some tumors cause a loss of appetite leading to weight loss.

·        Change in bowel habits - Colon cancer can cause constipation, gas pain, painful bowel movements, diarrhea and narrowing of the stool.



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