Health Watch - Colon Cancer - Part One

There is no single cause for colon cancer. Nearly all begin as benign polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.

There are often no symptoms. So how do you know if you have a problem? Most times you don't. That's why that unpleasant test you may have been putting off can have a very positive outcome.

Doctor John Nanfro, local Oncologist, says if you want to beat this silent killer you have to take action early. The long term survival rate for colorectal cancer is rising. But, the not so good news, there are still 57 thousand deaths a year from this disease.

Dr. Nanfro says it's called the silent killer because it often goes undetected in the early stages. That's why it's up to you to get that life saving check-up.

"Obviously screening with colonoscopy is an imperative if you have a family history younger than age 50. If you don't have a family history around age 50 get a colonoscopy. Then depending on the findings on the colonoscopy, if you have polyps or whatever, then do it more often like some cases that are high risk.

A physical exam rarely shows any problems. A rectal exam may reveal a mass in patients with rectal cancer, but not colon cancer. Only colonoscopy can see the entire colon.

Dr. Nanfro says he believes it's the fear or unpleasant nature of the colonoscopy that makes some people put the screening off.

“I don't see anything scary about the procedure at all, I don't even do it with anesthesia. I think it's that easy. Some people are just scared to do it, they're fearful of pain and this really doesn’t hurt at all.."

Many colon cancer cases have no symptoms. However when there are symptoms, these are the most common.
* Diarrhea, constipation, or other change in bowel habits
* Blood in the stool
* Unexplained anemia
* Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
* Intestinal obstruction
* Weight loss with no known reason
* Narrow stools

But with proper screening, colon cancer can be detected before the development of symptoms, when it is most curable.

“Given the advances made in colorectal cancer where the survivals have dramatically increased over just the past 5 years. I expect that one day we'll be able to control people by a series of different therapies.

And that day may not be far down the road. The biggest goal is to catch the cancer before it spreads to other organs such as the liver--however new advancements in treatment have given new hope to late stage cancer victims.

“Another improvement in therapy is the ability to now inspect lesions from the liver which couldn't be done before with radiofrequency ablation in which they can put a probe in and just give radiofrequency to that area and kill most of the tumor"

While there is no single cause for colon cancer, what you eat may play the biggest role. It may be associated with a high-fat, low-fiber diet and red meat. However, some studies found that the risk does not drop if you switch to a high-fiber diet, so the cause of the link is not yet clear.

Dr. Nanfro says still a change in your diet will help in many health areas.

"It's most predominant in industrialized nations, fast food nations. It's most common in those countries because people are on the go on the rush and people aren't being attentive to what they're eating."

Women who've had a personal history of breast cancer can also be at risk for developing colon cancer.


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