Cancer is a small but terrible word and one of the diagnoses you hope you’ll never hear the doctor give you. But the truth is that there were nearly 140,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2017 and the number is still increasing.
That’s why it is essential that you have regular check-ups with your doctor and, if necessary, a specialist colorectal surgeon. The earlier any issue is detected the easier it is to treat and the greater the likelihood of it being cured.
Diagnosing Bowel Cancer
A doctor can detect a lump in the abdomen or during a rectal exam. However, in most cases, the issue is discovered via tests. There are several options:
Colonoscopy is a procedure that involves the use of a flexible tube which is passed through the anus and along the rectum to provide images of the inside of the colon and the doctor can spot any issues. It covers the entire bowel and can be uncomfortable.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
This is usually performed after an enema and is basically the same as a colonoscopy but only covers the bottom half of the colon.
- CT Scanning
In the past, the quality of the CT images wasn’t great. But, they have been steadily improving and can help identify polyps. If one is found a colonoscopy will be needed to remove it and check whether it is cancerous.
Colon cancer can take a long time to develop, as much as 5-10 years between the arrival of the polyp and the onset of cancer. This is why regular examinations are so important, they can remove the polyps before they become cancerous.
There are several symptoms that indicate you have colon cancer:
- Bleeding from your bowel
Of course, when your bowel bleeds the blood is inside your colon and it is rare for it to cause bleeding at your rectum. Instead, it is most commonly noticed as blood in your stools.
- Changes in regular bowel movements
Specifically sudden bouts of diarrhea, alternating with constipation. You may also see an increase in the amount of mucus in your stools. This is caused by the polyps causing partial blockages and your stools struggling to complete their journey.
- Weight Loss
If you experience sudden and unexplained weight loss then it needs to be investigated. There are many reasons why this can happen, colon cancer is one of them. It’s worth having it checked and hopefully ruled out.
- Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain occurs because cancer has started to block the bowel, it can even block the colon completely. This causes bloating and abdominal pain, if left untreated the blockage can cause serious issues.
Because the symptoms are relatively general it is important to have regular check-ups, this will help to ensure any issues are detected early. Remember, the earlier that colon cancer is detected the more likely it is to be cured.
The majority of colon cancers are treated with surgery. The usual approach is to remove the cancerous section of the bowel and attach the two remaining sections together. This can be combined with a holistic cancer treatment as well as chemotherapy to shrink the cancer before surgery.