Once you turn 50, doctors recommend that you begin having regular colon cancer screenings. This allows them to detect the early signs of cancer and prevent it from becoming a serious health issue. Without the screenings, you could find yourself with an advanced stage of colon cancer, which requires aggressive treatment with many side effects. Here is why colon cancer becomes such a serious problem and how the screenings help to prevent that.
Why Colon Cancer is So Insidious
It begins as small growths, called polyps, on the wall of the large intestine. These polyps grow slowly and stay localized on the intestinal wall. Most of the polyps remain benign and cause no health problems. A small number of them turn into cancer cells. Once the change occurs, the polyp itself changes and begins to irritate the wall of the intestine and the symptoms start.
At this point in the life cycle of the cancerous polyp, it can still be removed completely along with all of the cancer cells. The larger issues start when the cancer cells begin to spread. Initially the cells will spread within the large intestine. In later stages, the cells can move through the body and settle into muscles, bones and other organs. At that point, treatment to successfully remove all of the cancer cells from the body is difficult.
Screening for Colon Cancer
Colonoscopies are done to allow the doctor to see inside of your colon and large intestine. They will look for polyps in the lining of the intestine. If they find a suspicious polyp, they can take a tissue biopsy, which is then examined in a laboratory to identify any cancer cells. They will also take samples of the tissue around the polyp and look for cancer cells that have spread from the polyp. Once the cancer cells start to spread, more aggressive treatment must be done to destroy all of the cancer cells in the body.
Treating the Colon Cancer
When the polyps are discovered in the early stages of becoming cancerous, the polyps can be surgically removed. If the cells have begun to spread, some of the tissue around the polyp must be removed along with the polyp.
Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to target the cells around the polyp and kill any cancer cells. If the cells have spread beyond the large intestine and into other parts of the body, chemotherapy is used to track down all of the cells and destroy them before they become established in other tissues.
Both radiation and chemotherapy have a number of side effects including:
- appetite and weight loss
These side effects go away after radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatment has been completed.
Early detection and treatment of colon cancer gives you the best chance of the cancer being completely removed. If you wait until symptoms develop, you may have an advanced stage of cancer that will be difficult to cure. Contact a dotor, like Lincoln Surgical Group PCm for more help.