Colon cancer usually strikes without symptoms. If caught early, polyps that develop in the digestive tract can typically be removed as benign. Despite this, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. To combat this disease we encourage people over the age of 50 to have a regular colonoscopy. By joining efforts of the CDC to increase the number of people over the age of 50 who receive a screening colonoscopy from 60% to 80%, we encourage all people who qualify to have a screening. We even have programming and funding to help uninsured people receive a colonoscopy. Through promoting screening colonoscopies we are hoping to prevent colon cancer before it becomes a life or death situation. That’s the bottom line.
Colorectal cancer is a collective term for cancers of the colon and rectum. Since cancers of the colon and rectum share many common features, they are often referred to as colorectal cancer. The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system. Together, they form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine. The colon is the first four to five feet of the large intestine and the last four to six inches is the rectum. Once food is chewed and swallowed, it travels through the esophagus to the stomach. In the stomach, it is partially digested and transferred to the small intestine. The small intestine continues digesting the food and absorbs most of the nutrients. The food then travels to the large intestine. The waste then moves from the colon into the rectum and passes out of the body through an opening called the anus during a bowel movement.
Colorectal cancers develop slowly over a period of several years. Most of them begin as a non-cancerous polyp, a growth of tissue on the lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps are also known as adenomas. Over 95 percent of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, which arise from cells that line the inside of the colon and the rectum. Removing the polyp early may prevent it from becoming cancerous. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women and most often occurs in people over 50 years of age. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and cause of cancer death among Georgian men and women. The Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry estimates that over 4,300 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed statewide in 2009 and about 1,300 Georgians will die from this disease.
Screening is the process of looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms of colorectal cancer. Regular screenings for colorectal cancer can find cancer early (when it is most likely to be curable). Screenings can also prevent colorectal cancer by finding polyps and removing them before they turn cancerous. Tests that are used for screening colorectal cancer can by divided into two groups:
Tests that find both colorectal polyps and cancer: These tests look at the structure of the colon to find any abnormal areas.
Tests that find cancer: These tests involve testing the stool (feces) for signs that cancer may be present. These types of tests are considered to be less invasive and easier.
Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
Other conditions such as hemorrhoids and inflammatory bowel (IBD) disease may also have symptoms that mimic colorectal cancer. If you have any of the above symptoms, it is very important to talk to your doctor because it could be a sign of a serious medical condition such as colorectal cancer.