Colorectal Cancer, also referred to as colon cancer, is one of the leading causes of cancer related death in the U.S. A side from skin related cancers, colon cancer is the third most prevalent form of cancer among men and women. According to the American Cancer Society, they estimate that approximately 49,000 deaths will occur in 2011 as a direct result of colorectal cancer. In fact, 1 out of 20 individuals will develop colon cancer at some point in their life. In terms of the area affected, colon cancer takes effect in the large intestine or the rectum. The process starts with the growth of a polyp, a tissue growth, which lines the colon and could potentially become cancerous. It’s essential for an endocrine nurse to be aware of the risk factors involved as well as various screening methods. Many patients are unaware of their own susceptibility to colon cancer or the steps to take in order to ascertain it’s prevented or caught in the early stages.
X-ray of a colon polyp
Who gets Colorectal Cancer?
While it’s not entirely certain what causes colorectal cancer, there are certain risk factors associated with it. These risk factors could fit any patient profile, which is why it happens to be one of the leading killers in the U.S. Some of the factors that might make an individual susceptible to colon cancer are-
- A patient’s age– 9 out of 10 cases of colon cancer are found in individuals over 50
- Smoking– In addition to numerous others cancers, smokers are more susceptible to colon cancer
- Obesity– Very overweight individuals have been linked to higher incidence rates of colon cancer
- Patients with a History of Bowel Disease– Crohn colitis and Ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases that increase the risk of colorectal cancer
- Race/Ethnicity– Colorectal cancer has been found to be prevalent among African Americans and Eastern Europeans
- Hereditary Factors- There are two primary hereditary factors, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) that are resultant of gene mutations
- Diet- It’s further been shown that a diet high in red meat can increase risk of colon cancer or Colorectal Cancer; contrary to some studies, there’s no definitive benefit to a high-fiber diet
With so many different and wide-ranging risk factors, it’s no wonder that the incidence rate among men and women is nearly identical, with 1 in 19 men being affected and 1 in 20 women.
Colorectal Cancer – How do you know?
A competent doctor will know the appropriate questions to ask and the right factors to look at. First and foremost, they should be well aware of your medical history, meaning asking about the risk factors outline above. It’s important they know about any past bowel conditions, familial experiences with colon cancer and smoking habits. Their responsibility will be to gauge an individual’s susceptibility to Colorectal Cancer and accordingly suggest a plan, whether that be early screening or referral to a gastro-intestinal specialist. It’s also important they be able to suggest an appropriate screening test according to a patient’s needs and condition. There are a number of tests to check for Colorectal Cancer, the most prevalent of which are the following-
Colonoscopy– the most comprehensive screening solution, colonoscopies are uncomfortable for the majority of people who often require medication to relax throughout the procedure. The procedure consists of a thin flexible tube with a camera attached to one end being inserted into the colon. A similar test that utilizes a shorter rod is called a sigmoidoscopy.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOTB) – an FOTB checks for blood in the stool, which may suggest colon cancer is present. The test isn’t entirely accurate though, meaning it is often paired with a colonoscopy
Double Contrast Barium Enema– this process is used to take x-rays of the colon. The process consists of the insertion of a liquid into the colon, followed by the pumping of air to expand the area. The expansion allows for an x-ray to be taken, which may indicate any abnormalities.
Ultimately, a colonoscopy is the preferred screening method, as it happens to be the most effective. It’s up to your doctor to know if a patient has a high risk profile, thereby making them an ideal candidate for a screening. The process is made all the more important by the fact that the initial polyps that may develop are not actually cancerous, meaning the doctor’s ability to properly categorize a patient can be the difference between an individual having Colorectal Cancer or not.
Colonoscopy.com is a comprehensive information network for individuals seeking to learn more about colorectal cancer concerns. We provide a list of local gastroenterologists and medical providers for our users to link up with and seek further advice.