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HEALTHY REASONING: Colon Cancer Is 90% Preventable If Detected Early

HEALTHY REASONING: Colon Cancer Is 90% Preventable If Detected Early

By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist

Colon, colorectal or bowel cancer can be detected in the large intestine or gut. This cancer is 90% preventable if detected early. In Canada, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, accounting for more than 12% of cases of cancer in both sexes.

Our intestine, starts at the mouth and ends at our anus. The colon which is prone to cancer, is a part of the large intestine, and is about 6 feet long in an adult. Colon cancer starts out in the lining of the colon where it shows up as a projection or a polyp. Once the polyp is detected and removed, the potential cancer is no longer a threat.

How is the potential cancer detected?  The large intestine is the main site for cancer development, and so it is recommended that by age 45 we should consider having a doctor view the inside of the large intestine. Colon or colorectal cancer screening, using the colonoscopy test, is recommended once every 5 to 10 years.

Problems in the gut first show up as bleeding. Sometimes this bleeding is undetected. The faecal occult blood test (FOB) helps to diagnose bleeding disorders of the gut.  It detects small amounts of blood in your faeces, which you would not normally see or be aware of.

There are several disorders which may cause bleeding into the intestine or gut. For example, gastric or duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis, bowel polyps, and bowel or colorectal cancer.

If these bleed heavily, then your stools (faeces) would be obviously bloody or a black colour. However, sometimes these disorders only bleed with a trickle of blood. If you only have a small amount of blood in your faeces, then the faeces look normal.  However, the FOB test will detect the blood.

So, the test may be done if you have symptoms in the belly (abdomen), such as persistent pain. It may also be done to screen for colon cancer before any symptoms develop.

Some of the risk factors for colon or colorectal cancer are, type 2 diabetes; family history of the disease; personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease; age (as you get older the risk increases); a diet rich in red or processed meat; excessive drinking of alcohol; obesity; physical inactivity, smoking, previous cancer elsewhere in the body;

Signs of colon or colorectal cancer include, detecting bleeding in and around the stool. It is very important to look at, and examine, your stool after each bowel movement. Have you experienced a change in your bowel habits? Are you more constipated? Do you have a loss of weight for unknown reason? Abdominal pain? Cramping? Bloating? Fatigue? Weakness? Straining to pass your stool? Narrowed stool? These are all signs of possible colon cancer, or some other problem, and requires a look inside your intestine. This can be achieved by doing a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is a 20 minute procedure that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). He or she uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon. A colonoscopy is recommended once every 5 to 10 years.

Your doctor will be able to tell you the frequency based on your risks for developing the cancer. Before doing a colonoscopy, you will need to clean out your colon, by a process called a colon prep. The prep takes 1 to 2 days, depending on which type of prep your doctor recommends.

Another process, a barium enema, is a way to detect colon or colorectal cancer. It involves taking X-rays of the colon and the rectum, after the patient is given an enema with a white chalky liquid containing barium. The barium outlines the large intestines on the X-rays. Tumors and other abnormalities appear as dark areas. Which screening test is used, depends on your risk, and your doctor.

A recommended diet for good colon health should include antioxidants, folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, high fibre and low fat. Aim for a diet without processed foods, but rich in unprocessed fresh food.

If you are 45 or older and a doctor has never looked inside your colon, see your family physician about arranging an appointment for you, to have a screening procedure done.

The ability to conquer colon or colorectal cancer is in your hands, so make the move today to live a healthy and fulfilling life. 

Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at allan@jonesandjones.ca.

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