The Aging Body And Colon Cancer Screening

Health & Medical Blog

Physical changes in your body as you age mean you are at a higher risk of cancer than ever before. Being proactive with cancer screenings is one way to minimize the risk of cancer affecting your health. Colonoscopy screening for colon cancer is one way intercept this disease before it progresses. Here is what you need to know about colon cancer testing and why it's so important as you move into your senior years.

Catching Colon Cancer Early

This cancer of your lower intestine starts as small clumps of tissue, called polyps, that grow out from the intestinal wall. Most of these polyps start out as benign tissues that cause you no harm. If left to grow, some will turn cancerous. If not treated, these cancer cells will eventually spread throughout the organs and tissues in your body.

For this reason, it's recommended that you start getting colonoscopy screenings when you turn 50. The discovery and removal of these pre-cancerous polyps will prevent the development of cancer cells in the intestinal lining. Because the early stages of colon cancer have few symptoms, a colon screening is the best method of detecting these polyps.

Later Stages Produce Symptoms

As the polyps turn cancerous, you may experience physical symptoms. If you notice any of the following signs, get into your doctor soon for a screening:

  • diarrhea or constipation
  • blood in your stool
  • abdominal pain
  • general fatigue
  • sudden weight loss

The severity of the symptoms depend on how extensive the cancer is in the intestine. You may have no symptoms at all while the cancerous cells are multiplying and suddenly experience severe symptoms when they reach a certain density. Don't wait until symptoms appear to have a colon screening because the disease may have progressed well into your intestine and other organs by then.

Causes of This Cancer

The exact cause of colon cancer is unknown, but there are several factors known to increase your risk of developing the cancerous polyps.

  • Family history of colon cancer - Your risk is higher if a family member has had colon cancer. Genetics plays a role in this. If multiple family members have had this cancer, it may not be hereditary, but exposure to some environmental substances common to the family.
  • Chronic bowel disease - Irritable bowel diseases, such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, put you at a higher risk. The inflamed intestinal lining associated with these diseases may not produce the benign polyps, but will develop the cancerous cells. If you have a chronic bowel disease, your screening will include a biopsy of the intestinal wall to examine it for cancer cells.
  • High-fat, low-fiber diets - Diet does appear to have an impact on the development of intestinal polyps.
  • Diabetes - People with insulin resistant diabetes have a higher risk.
  • Smoking and alcohol - Both of these increase your risk.

Treatment Options

The treatment of colon cancer depends on the stage of development of the cancer cells:

  • In the early stage where benign polyps are present, the polyps can be removed during the colonoscopy.
  • If the polyps have turned cancerous, a portion of the colon is removed in case tissues surrounding the polyps have been affected.
  • If cancer cells have invaded multiple parts of the colon, larger segments of the colon are removed requiring a colonostomy for waste removal.
  • When surgery is done to remove cancerous tissue, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is often done after the procedure to kill any remaining cancer cells in the intestine or other organs.

Talk with your doctor about getting a colon screening (available at clinics like Clinical Gastrointestinal Associates, PC). Find out what risk factors are working against you. Catch this disease early to prevent the serious health issues that come with cancer spreading through your intestine and to your other organs.


31 July 2015

Finding the Right Healthcare: Putting Families First

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