We also understand that colonoscopy screenings can feel intimidating or even embarrassing. However, what matters is colonoscopies save lives.
Our team also takes great care in ensuring you’re comfortable throughout your procedure.
From regular screenings to innovative cancer treatment options, you can depend on GIDOCJHB to deliver an unsurpassed level of care along with the peace of mind all patients deserve.
What is Colon Cancer?
The colon forms a crucial part of the body’s digestive system, which comprises of the esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestines.
The colon is the first 4 to 5 feet of the large intestine. Cancers that begin in the lower bowel are called colon cancers (also commonly referred to as colorectal cancer).
Colon cancer is one of the leading forms of cancer, both in South Africa and around the world. To find out more about how colon cancer affects men and women, click here.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Some early warnings may include:
- Blood in your stool
- Change in bowel habits
- Stomach and bloating or cramps that take time to go away
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling the bowels don’t fully empty
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Frequent gas pain, bloating, fullness, or cramps.
Unlike some other cancers, many people with colon cancer experience little to no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
However, when symptoms do show, they’ll likely vary based on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your gastroenterologist. They may also be caused by something other than cancer.
The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor/gastroenterologist.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
What You Can Control
The following risk factors increase your chance of developing colon cancer:
- Obesity: Obesity is an important risk factor for colon cancer.
- Unhealthy diet: Eat more fruits, vegetables, and fiber, and less animal and fat. Foods rich in calcium and folic acid (such as legumes, citrus, and broccoli) may also help to reduce your risk of colon cancer.
- Smoking: Not smoking or quitting if you are currently a smoker is one of the top ways to prevent colon cancer.
- Lack of exercise: Even with moderate physical activity like 3 to 3 times a week can make a difference, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking short distances instead of using transport can help reduce your risk of colon cancer
- Drinking alcohol in excess: If you choose to drink alcohol, do so moderately
- Not getting screened regularly: most people should get their first colon cancer screening, a colonoscopy when they reach the age of 45.
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
- Older age: the risks of developing colon cancer increase with age for both men and women
- Personal medical history: If you have a history of precancerous colorectal polyps, you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer
- Family history: If you have a first-degree relative who has had colorectal cancer, you are at an increased risk as well
- History of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s colitis, increase your risk of colon cancer.
Colon Cancer Stages
Stages indicate how far cancer has spread and the size of any tumors. The stages develop as follows:
- Stage 0: Cancer is in a very early stage. This is the easiest stage to treat because cells are only in the inner lining and haven’t spread deeper.
- Stage 1: Cancer has grown into the next layer of tissue but has not reached the lymph nodes or any other organs.
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread to the outer layers of the colon, but it has not spread beyond the colon.
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes
- Stage 4: Cancer has reached other parts beyond the wall of the colon. As stage 4 progresses, colon cancer reaches distant parts of the body.
- The following tests may be used for colon cancer screening or to find out if cancer has spread. Tests also may be used to find out if surrounding tissues or organs have been damaged by treatment.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): A gastroenterologist inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for polyps.
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): a simple test that can be done at home and looks for hidden traces of blood in a bowel motion. FOCT can help discover colon cancer in its early stages in people without symptoms.
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): This take-home test finds blood proteins in the stool.
- Sigmoidoscopy: Sigmoidoscopy is similar to colonoscopy, however, it only explores the lower part of the bowel, where cancer is more likely to develop. If a pre-cancerous polyp is detected during the procedure, a full bowel examination by colonoscopy is usually needed.
- Colonoscopy: During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist uses a thin, flexible tube, enabled with a camera to check for abnormalities or disease in your lower intestine or colon.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): An endoscope is inserted into the rectum. A probe at the end bounces high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal organs to make a picture (sonogram). Also called endosonography.
- CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scan
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
- PET/CT (positron emission tomography) scan.
Colon Cancer Treatment
Treatment and types of surgery of colon cancer mostly depend on the stage of cancer, its location, and on the patient’s general health. Several different types of treatment are used (sometimes just one, other times a combined approach).
Surgery is the treatment used most often for colorectal cancer. Colon and rectal cancers require surgery if they are to be cured.
In radiation therapy, high-energy x-rays damage or destroy cancer cells to shrink tumors.
Chemotherapy is often given before or after surgery to shrink tumors or kill cancer cells, or if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Immunotherapy may be an option for patients whose cancer has specific genomic features.
Targeted therapy uses bio-engineered drugs that target specific proteins found on cancer cells. These drugs may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.