Colon cancer is a disease that can develop in your body without a trace or a symptom of its existence until it's very late in the game. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are over 50,000 colon cancer fatalities in the United States a year. As with most cancers, the earlier you catch the progression, the easier it is to treat. Although colon cancer turns deadly as it grows and spreads, it usually begins as small benign polyps. Catching colon cancer early requires a commitment to regular screenings as recommended by your doctor.
Most patients begin regular colon cancer screenings after they turn 50 years old, with a repeat procedure every five years. Your doctor may recommend an earlier start date or shorter intervals if you have a high-risk factor, such as a family history of colon cancer or a personal medical history with red flags.
There are several different procedures used to screen for colon cancer. Some are more invasive or uncomfortable than others, and your doctor will help you determine which type will be the most effective for your situation. Screening procedures include:
- Fecal Occult Blood Test
- Virtual Colonoscopy
- Double Contrast Barium Enema
The most well-known procedure is the colonoscopy, which allows the doctor to view the entire colon and rectum while he searches for cancer or other abnormalities. A virtual colonoscopy procedure has also been developed which is less invasive for the patient.
Most patients with colon cancer with undergo typical aggressive cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. While each of these options have different side effects for the patient, they can lead to a full recovery, especially if the patient begins treatment in the early stages of his cancer.
March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Have you been tested for colon cancer? The team at Oak Hill Hospital stands ready to help. Call our Consult-a-Nurse® service at 1-888-741-5120 to ask questions about screenings and receive a physician referral.