Colon Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer or cancer of the large intestine is classified 2nd in women and 3rd in men.

Colon Cancer screening

Colon cancer screening also known as colorectal cancer or large bowel cancer, is a disease that develops either in the cells located in the colon or in those found in the rectum. However, in the majority of cases, it occurs in the colon.

It develops as a polyp before turning into cancer. In its first form, it is easier to treat and prevent its spread. Colon cancer causes bleeding that is unfortunately invisible to the naked eye. It is only during examinations that its presence can be detected.

The search for and removal of polyps is done by a specialist doctor during endoscopic examinations : colonoscopy or rectoscopy.

It can appear in men and women between the ages of 50 and 74. In terms of frequency, it is the 2nd most common cancer in women (after breast cancer) and the 3rd most common in men (after prostate and lung cancer).

Although the risk of onset before age 40 is exceptional, its frequency increases markedly with age 50.

It is necessary to treat this cancer at the beginning of its evolution in order to have positive results and to increase the chances of survival. This is why it is so important to get tested at a screening center, as it detects it very early.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer ?

When it is still very small, colorectal cancer usually goes unnoticed, and it is possible that it does not yet cause any signs or symptoms, or that these have similarities with other diseases. The insidious symptoms of colon cancer explain why it is considered the second leading cause of death in the world.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of warning signs :

1 - Blood in the stool

The loss of blood and diarrhea over time results in weight loss and general fatigue. This blood in the stool is usually bright red, but it should also be understood that this bleeding can also occur because of hemorrhoids.

2 - Change in intestinal transit

If your intestinal transit was stable and regular during years and that this one changes in 3 months more or less can be alarming, this change is generally accompanied by intestinal disorders like :

  • diarrhea or constipation that has lasted for weeks,
  • stools that are narrower than usual,
  • a false urge to have a bowel movement.

3 - Palpitations

Blood loss causes anemia and diarrhea causes dehydration. This exposes the patient to palpitations.

What are the causes ?

Colorectal cancer is linked to several causes. These include :

  • A family history,
  • Excessive sugar intake not regulated by physical activity,
  • Inflammatory bowel disease,
  • Smoking,
  • The presence of polyp.

At what age should I be screened?

The risk of developing colon cancer before the age of 40 is rare. It often appears from the fifties where the frequency increases considerably.

Therefore, it is recommended to be screened from the age of 50. However, there are exceptions, if you feel the onset of the above-mentioned symptoms or if you have a family history, it is then more prudent to be examined even if you have not reached 50 years of age.

It should be noted, however, that the proximity of these symptoms to those of other diseases is not likely to facilitate the diagnosis. In order not to leave any doubt, it is recommended to consult your doctor who will then provide you with a diagnosis.

The occurrence of colon cancer is increasing

In the last ten years, its occurrence in the under-50 age group has increased, especially in some high-income countries, such as Denmark with 3.1% more per year, New Zealand with 2.9% more, Australia with 2.9% more and the United Kingdom with 1.8% more.

Younger people, especially those between the ages of 20 and 29, are generally at higher risk of developing rectal cancer. Obesity or poor diet may be a factor in the increasing development among young people.

In Belgium, for example, colorectal cancer is the cause of more than 3000 deaths each year. Almost 10 deaths per day! However, it can be cured if it is detected and treated at the beginning of its evolution, i.e. before the appearance of symptoms. If colorectal cancer is detected early, the chances of survival at 5 years are 90%!

How to screen for colorectal cancer ?

The French Cancer Institute, during one of its last campaigns, caricatured the interest of a screening in these terms: "Most of the time, detected in time, a colorectal cancer is not bad", because one can act quickly and the doctor will be able to set up the appropriate care to treat it.

It can be detected through the immunological test which is considered more accurate and colonoscopy. But there are several other tests for screening for this cancer.

1 - Immunological tests

This screening involves finding polyps as early as possible before they develop into cancer. Immunologic testing is a practice known to provide good results because it detects 2 to 2.5 times more cancers and 3 to 4 times more advanced adenomas.

This is why they have been preferred to Hemoccult II tests since 2015 and have been recommended for several years by several health authorities, including the National Academy of Medicine and the High Authority for Health.

Screening through the immunoassay consists of a single stool sample. The test kit is usually given to the patient with well illustrated instructions for use.

2 - Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is performed by a gastroenterologist. It is simply a baseline exam that involves looking inside the intestine. Polyps can also be detected and removed during this examination before they lead to cancer.

Colonoscopy is not painful because it is performed under light general anesthesia.

Preventive advice

The bottom line is that when colorectal cancer is detected earlier, there is a better chance of curing or treating it. When the symptoms described earlier appear, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist for a consultation. As a preventive measure, in order to reduce the risk of disease and improve your health, it is recommended to :

  • Play sports or engage in physical activities regularly,
  • Eat less red meat,
  • Hydrate regularly,
  • Controlling your blood sugar,
  • Control cholesterol and blood sugar levels,
  • Have a healthy and balanced diet
  • eat fruits and vegetables rich in fiber and antioxidants

Where to get tested ?

The DDG Gastroenterology Center (located in the heart of Brussels, in the Bois de la Cambre in Ixelles) deals with the screening, diagnosis and care of colorectal cancers, it holds an expertise in this practice of more than 30 years. A gastroenterologist physician accompanied by an anesthesiologist and specialized nurses will take care of you and then look for and remove polyps during a coloscopy.

The test result will be given to you the same day with a protocol.