According to the National Cancer Institute, Colorectal Cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States. This type of cancer starts in the colon or rectum. Hospitals and Clinics offer a cancer screening procedure known as Colonoscopy which screens the patients for ColoRectal Cancer to identify early signs of this cancer in order to achieve better treatment outcomes.
TYPES OF COLORECTAL CANCER
There are two types of ColoRectal Cancer i.e. Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, ColoRectal Cancer symptoms of such gastrointestinal cancers may or may not be present and include a change in bowel habits like blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way, stools usual than normal, frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, cramps, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and vomiting.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is recommended that those individuals who do not experience any symptoms and are considered to be having an average risk of developing ColoRectal Cancer, should have a colonoscopy to look for polyps and cancer every 10 years beginning at the age of 50. On the other hand, those at high risk, need to be screened earlier and much more frequently.
Deepa Shah, M.D., gastroenterologist mentions that some of the risk factors leading to ColoRectal Cancer include individuals with a strong family history of ColoRectal Cancer or of polyps (advanced adenomas). Those with relatives diagnosed before the age of 60, should begin screening at the age of 40 or sooner depending upon the age of the family member at the time of diagnosis. Some of the other risk factors include tobacco use, obesity, and diabetes.
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that screenings should begin at the age of 45 for the African American population who are also considered to be at high risk for Colon Cancer. Additional tests such as biopsy and colonoscopy could be used to detect cancer by examining the tissue samples.
THE COLONOSCOPY PROCEDURE
Prior to the colonoscopy exam, patients are instructed to drink clear liquids, including a bowel prep to clean out the colon and prepare for the procedure. Shah mentioned that now they have a lower volume bowel prep available which has been the biggest hurdle faced by the patients. Colonoscopy refers to a painless procedure of approximately 30 minutes which is usually performed in an outpatient setting using sedation administered by an anesthesiologist.
Shah said that the procedure involves, insertion of a flexible tube into the rectum, up to the colon, and sometimes reaches the small intestine to look up for any polyps or abnormalities. Carbon dioxide is used to insufflate the colon and reduce the rate of complications, including bloating and distention following the examination. Doctors perform colonoscopies to identify polyps and pre-cancerous growths, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids and to identify the factors leading to gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, and colitis.
After the procedure, although normal activities can be resumed the next day, however, the patients are advised to rest at home and not to drive or operate machinery. Test results are generally provided to patients within 7 to 10 business days.
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