According to studies, both women and men at average risk for colorectal cancer must get a screening colonoscopy every 10 years when they reach the age of 50. However, African American women and men must start regular screening colonoscopies at the age of 45. Doing so can help detect colon cancer and rectal cancer at an early stage. Thus, when discovered early, the chances for successfully treating the disease are much better.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam performed to identify changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. A lengthy, flexible tube (colonoscope) with a video chip is inserted into the rectum during a colonoscopy exam. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube lets the doctor see and examine the surface and inside of the whole colon.
As your colon should be thoroughly clean, you should avoid eating solid food and drink only clear liquids a day before the test. It can help your doctor to check any abnormalities. Moreover, you also need to drink a solution that will lead you to go to the bathroom, possibly many times, so there is literally no waste in your colon.
If required, polyps and other kinds of abnormal tissue can be withdrawn through the scope during a colonoscopy exam. One of the major benefits of colonoscopy is that your doctor can get rid of.
Alternative tests to colonoscopy
Virtual colonoscopy- This test checks the structure of the colon and rectum for any unusual area. It is performed either with a scope (a tube-like tool with a light and small video camera on the tip) interested into the rectum or with special imaging x-rays. These images display polyps and other abnormalities within your colon and rectum.
Stool-based tests – These tests are performed to check the stool (feces) for signs of cancer every three years. Most importantly, they are less invasive and easier to have done.
There is no adequate preparation required in this kind of test. Though you may be asked to limit particular foods or medications before the test. Moreover, stool-based tests are performed to look for any signs or ‘markers’ for cancer in your stool. Thus, here are three major kinds of stool-based tests:
- Stool DNA tests are performed to identify changes in DNA that occur as colon cancer grows. These merge testing for changes in stool DNA with a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) are the most valid stool-based tests.
- Fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) are done to find traces of blood in your stool that are not visible to the naked eye.
- Fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) detect proteins available in the blood. It can allow your doctor to know about the presence of blood in your stool, which can be a sign of colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer symptoms and risk factors
Some noticeable signs and symptoms of colon cancer are as follows:
- A constant change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the density or texture of your stool
- Constant abdominal discomforts, like cramps, gas, or pain
- An unfamiliar feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty fully.
- Weakness or fatigue
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Sudden weight loss
Some adults at increased or high risk are more likely to get colorectal cancer. However, it doesn’t directly mean someone will surely get cancer. But you must start screening at an early age, get extra tests, or be tested more than usual. If you notice such symptoms of colorectal cancer, consult your doctor immediately.
Colorectal cancer recurrence
If you’ve already had colorectal cancer, you must get a different plan to check for recurrence. It consists of periodic colonoscopy. You need to print the survivorship screening chart that best explains your cancer kind and share it with your doctor. He or she can follow that chart to sketch out a better-personalized plan for you.
Reduce your colorectal cancer risk
There is no 100% guarantee that you won’t get colorectal cancer. But making some main lifestyle changes will reduce the chances that you will get the disease:
- Get screened for colorectal cancer as it can help detect cancer before signs and symptoms develop.
- Follow a healthy and balanced diet. Ensure to eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Get regular exercise. Try to at least do moderate exercise for 150 minutes and vigorous exercise for 75 minutes every week.
- Try to control your weight as excess body fat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
- Restrict your consumption of red meat as the more you eat, the more you increase the risk.
- Don’t smoke and limit your alcohol.