COLORECTAL CANCER: SCREENING AND EARLY DETECTION
Colorectal cancer is one of the high-ranking causes of death in both men and women, but the number of deaths has declined as more people realize the benefits of colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer polyps are discovered early through screening and can be removed before developing into cancerous cells.
Colorectal cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the colon or rectum. It is common in people over the age of 50years, but that is not to say it cannot affect people below that age. According to research, a 90% survival rate is possible when colorectal cancer is detected early. Sadly, only four out of ten colorectal cancer cases are discovered at this early stage.
The survival rate is lower when the cancer cells have spread outside the colon and rectum. Unfortunately, only one in three people who ought to be tested for colorectal cancer have undergone screening. Many of them are unaware that the Hong Kong colorectal cancer screening program can save their lives.
What is colorectal cancer screening?
Colorectal cancer screening is the process of testing for cancerous or precancerous cells in people who may or may not have signs of the disease. The process is known as a colonoscopy. Regular colorectal cancer screening, especially after the age of 50years, is one of the powerful tools against colorectal cancer.
Hong Kong colorectal cancer screening can detect precancerous polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum) to remove them before developing into cancer. When detected early, colorectal cancer is treatable. Note that the early stages of colorectal cancer present no symptoms, and they tend to appear when cancer progresses. That is why regular screening is essential.
What happens during colonoscopy
- Colonoscopy is most effective in screening for colorectal cancer because it can detect many types of colorectal cancers. Here are some of the activities that occur during colonoscopy.
- Before the colonoscopy, your doctor will give you instructions regarding what you will eat and how to empty your bowels.
- On the test day, the doctor may prescribe some medications to help you relax. You may fall asleep and may not feel anything during the test.
- A doctor conducts a colonoscopy by inserting a colonoscope (a long, thin, flexible tube) into your colon via your rectum. The tube is equipped with light and a tiny video camera that sends the images to a monitor.
- The doctor also examines your colon and rectum lining to check for polyps or any tumors. When found, they can be removed immediately.
Generally, you should start colorectal cancer screening at the age of 45years and earlier if you have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Your doctor may advise on how often you may need a colonoscopy test. Other Hong Kong colorectal cancer screening tests include:
- DNA stool tests.
- Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonoscopy).
- Fecal occult blood tests.
- Double-contrast barium enema.
However, these tests are not as effective as colonoscopy. You may still require colonoscopy tests if the doctor suspects polyps or tumors based on these tests.
Risk factors of colorectal cancer
Some risk factors extend the chances of developing colorectal cancer. They include:
- Age- colorectal cancer is common in people over the age of 50years.
- Family history- like many other cancers, having a family history of colorectal cancer increases your risk of developing it. For instance, if you have a parent, sibling, or kid with colorectal cancer, especially if they were diagnosed before the age of 60years.
- A previous case of colorectal cancer- people diagnosed with colorectal cancer before and treated face a higher risk of the cancer recurring.
- Inflammatory bowel disease including, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Lifestyle- being overweight, eating a diet high in red meat and processed meats, having an inactive lifestyle, heavy alcohol use, and smoking can increase your risks of developing colorectal cancer.
- Race- although the reasons are not fully understood, black individuals are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
- Jews of Eastern European descent have DNA changes that increase their risk of colorectal cancer.
Questions to ask your doctor when diagnosed with colorectal cancer
A colorectal cancer diagnosis can leave you, and your family devastated, overwhelmed, anxious and uncertain. You should try to get as much information as you can about your condition, treatment, and how it will reduce your quality of life. Some of the inquiries you should make include:
How can I cope with my diagnosis better?
Any cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down emotionally, physically, and financially. Thankfully, the Hong Kong cancer fund can help you manage the financial aspect of cancer treatment. Additionally, your team of doctors and nurses should be your source of support in helping you cope with the cancer diagnosis. Professionals known as oncology social workers provide individual and family counseling free of charge.
What is the stage of my cancer?
A cancer stage is denoted by the number 1,2,3,4, with stage four indicating that cancer has already invaded other body parts. The tumor’s size and extent of the spread determine the cancer stage.
What is the recommended treatment plan?
Your doctor recommends a colorectal cancer treatment plan depending on the cancer stage, overall health, age, and personal preferences. Several treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and targeted therapies. Surgery is a common treatment for colorectal cancer, and it is effective if the cancer is in the early stages.
Should I change my diet?
You should also discuss your diet choices with your healthcare team during and after the treatment. For instance, some patients develop sensitivities to some foods during the treatment. You can also look for an expert in diet and nutrition for professional advice.
Am I allowed to seek a second opinion?
There is usually a period between your cancer diagnosis and beginning treatment. Seeking a second opinion during this time can give you the satisfaction you need or even an alternative treatment possibility.
Regular colorectal cancer screening can detect cancerous or precancerous polyps for colorectal cancer for removal early. If diagnosed with colorectal cancer, excellent communication with your healthcare team can improve the quality of care you receive.