Colon cancer is the cancer of the large intestine (also called colon). Colorectal cancer refers to the cancer of colon and rectum. It is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths globally. Unfortunately, there are no tell-a-tale signs of colon cancer as such, which is why screening is strongly recommended. In this post, we will find more on how colon cancer is diagnosed.
When to see a doctor?
Since the large intestine is a part of the digestive system, some of the symptoms are often confusing. In case of colon cancer, small clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps are formed in the colon, which can later become cancerous. The good news is these adenomatous polyps can be removed through a procedure called colonoscopy. You should see a doctor, if you have any of these signs –
- Have change in bowel movements – either loose motions or constipation for more than three weeks.
- Have rectal bleeding
- Have abdominal pain, discomfort, gas that refuses to subside with OTC medications
- A sense that the bowel isn’t clear as yet
- Unexplained weight loss, weakness and fatigue
Experts like Dr. Reddy recommend patients to keep a check on their bowel movements in general. Early detection, treatment and prevention have helped patients in surviving colon cancer in more than 90% of the known cases.
Diagnosing colon cancer
The most common test used for detecting colon cancer is a colonoscopy. It involves using a colonoscope, which is a tube that comes with a camera on the tip. This is inserted into the colon through the rectum, and with the camera, your doctor can check the entire colon, including the rectal area. If there are any polyps found, surgical tools can be used through the tube to collect tissue samples. Doctors can also remove polyps during colonoscopy. There are no fixed blood tests that can be used to check if a patient has colon cancer, but in general, your doctor will do a few blood tests to ensure that other organs, especially the kidney and liver, is working as intended. Blood test can be recommended to find a chemical called carcinoembryonic antigen or CEA, which is produced by the cancer. This is often used by doctors to decide and take a call on the prognosis, as whether the treatment is helping the patient.
Get screened for colon cancer – It’s preventable and can be treated, if diagnosed at the right time.