Find out everything you need to know about this type of cancer below.
Colon cancer diagnosis: what is colon cancer and what different types are there?
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers that exist today. Unfortunately, it is also one of the types of cancer that has the lowest chance of survival, despite the fact that these chances are increasing over time. In most cases, final stage colon cancer, unfortunately, ends in death and chances of survival are only around 5%. In general, colorectal cancer (colon cancer) is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50 (95% of cases) and as a result, when you reach this age, you need to be extremely cautious and vigilant so that you can correctly identify the signs as early as possible.
While colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, it can still be divided into two similar types of cancer: rectal cancer and colon cancer. Judging by the several recently recorded, new cases of colorectal carcinoma, 60% of cases affect the intestines, while 40% affect the rectum. These cancers are caused by a malignant tumour forming in the mucous membrane of the large organ, but this does not always cause symptoms to appear.
Because of this, it is important to stay vigilant and get examined if you believe you are experiencing any of the following symptoms.
Colon cancer: how to recognise symptoms and signs in the gastrointestinal area
As soon as the tumour starts to appear, cancer can manifest itself through sudden constipation or, at a later stage, persistent diarrhoea, increased abdominal volume, frequent or recurring abdominal pain, the urgent need to go to the toilet, vomiting or finding blood in your stool. However, there are other less noticeable signs such as anaemia or unexplained weight loss which can also occur.
Depending on how far along cancer has progressed, some more serious symptoms could start to occur such as intestinal obstruction or the peritoneum inflammation. Therefore, it’s important to stay vigilant so cancer can be identified as soon as possible. There are various ways to do this which vary in reliability depending on the location or stage of cancer.
Clinical examinations usually consist of a rectal examination to determine any anatomical abnormalities, but these examinations don’t reveal all anomalies, but only those found around the rectum area. They also don’t clarify whether the cells are in fact cancerous or not.
Prevention and early detection: looking for traces of blood in your stool
At present, there is an early detection program that has been set up which involves a special test which can detect microscopic traces of blood in your stool. This current reference test is known as a Haemoccult test or Guaiac test and is carried out over several days depending on the test itself. It involves putting stool samples on microscopic slides for several days and then sending them off to a laboratory for testing.
The examination results are then sent back to the patient and treating doctor within a maximum of 15 days. In some countries, people aged 51 and over are automatically invited to an annual preventive program for early detection of colon cancer by their health insurance companies. Health insurance companies usually cover the costs of annual blood tests and preventive medical check-ups and from the age of 56, there is also the option of carrying out a preventive colonoscopy, which is also paid for by health insurance companies.
Further examinations have also been an option since April last year. Like previous early detection tests, this current test also consists of examining stool samples for traces of blood that are invisible to the human eye, with the addition of also looking for antibodies. The current test is also more efficient, reliable and easier to implement.
Several examinations are needed to confirm the diagnosis
As soon as the first test has been carried out and the results come back positive, the patient then has to go for a colonoscopy which would reveal the presence of a possible tumour. During this examination, a probe is inserted to inspect the intestinal area and take tissue samples if in doubt. Doctors are becoming increasingly more likely to carry out a proctoscopy if any anomalies are found in the rectum area. And if suspicious tissue is then discovered, both of these techniques allow for a subsequent biopsy.
If it isn’t possible to carry out a colonoscopy, a virtual colonoscopy can alternatively be performed, in which the intestine is scanned using a CT scanner. Through this scan, the inside of the intestine can be seen without the need for an invasive procedure. Any tissue samples taken during the aforementioned tests would then be sent to the laboratory to determine their properties and therefore confirm whether a tumour is present or not.
Once cancer has been confirmed, a broader plan of action will then be created. This usually includes further blood tests and other examinations that will determine the type, form and stage of cancer. In most cases, this is then followed up by chemotherapy.