“It usually starts in the form of a polyp, which is just a little outgrowth of abnormal cells, and then over a process, probably about five to ten years, it becomes a cancer,” said Dr. Stephanie Cauble, a gastroenterologist at the Baton Rouge Clinic.
Dr. Cauble and I are talking about a cancer that is the second leading causing of cancer deaths in the U.S., colon cancer.
“Colon cancer can affect anyone. It does affect men and women almost equally. It can affect people of any age, but usually, it usually happens after age 50,” said Dr. Cauble.
Like with many cancers, you won’t always have symptoms.
“That’s why we try to screen for it early. However, in some of the later stages, people can have symptoms. They may have blood in their stool. They may have weight loss, a change in their bowel habits, either from constipation or diarrhea or have noticed that their stool becomes very narrow,” explained Dr. Cauble.
Dr. Cauble urges people to make sure they get screened.
“Most people will start screening at age 50, unless they have a predisposition to early colon cancer. Screening tests include tests that detect cancer early, and those that prevent cancer by finding cancerous polyps. The early detection tests are usually going to be in the form of a stool sample that you would submit,” said Dr. Cauble. “The screened tests are typically going to be some type of endoscopy. The main one being a colonoscopy.”
What is a colonoscopy?
“It is typically a sedated procedure, and it’s done in an outpatient setting. So, it involves a few hours of your life. Once you’re sedated, a scope is inserted into the rectum passed through the colon all the way to where it connects to the small intestines, and then, as you’re looking at the colon, we look for those pre-cancerous polyps, and those are removed,” concluded Dr. Cauble.
Dr. Cauble said to treat colon cancer, that can involve surgery or chemotherapy.