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Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s an uncomfortable topic of discussion for some, but it is a very important one that needs to be addressed. The words colon cancer screening and colonoscopy may not generate the best reaction, however, the intention of this article is to absolve your fears and reinforce the benefits of this screening procedure.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and everyone could use a little update about the topic. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canada for both men and women, but it is surprisingly treatable if detected early; hence the importance of the colorectal screening procedure. Beginning at 50 years of age for those at average risk of developing colorectal cancer, a simple at-home stool test – the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) – should be completed and repeated every two years. However, if you have a first-degree relative with colon cancer, your screening should begin about 10 years younger than the age at which they were diagnosed (For instance, if your close relative was 50 years old when diagnosed, you should begin screening when you turn 40) and it is advised that a colonoscopy be performed. At this point in time, colonoscopy is the gold standard for the detection of any abnormalities of the colon, such as polyps, that may eventually become cancerous if not appropriately treated or removed. It should be noted that most colonoscopies do not result in a diagnosis of cancer. The purpose of these screening procedures is to look for signs that could eventually progress to that and remove them before they pose a problem. It’s all about prevention!

Many people have the idea that a colonoscopy is a painful experience. This should not be the case. The patient is most often well-sedated and unaware of the procedure unless they request to be awake. Likely, the most discomfort the patient will experience is during the day before the procedure, because they are required to consume an all-liquid diet and then take a laxative to clear out the bowel. One day of hunger and slight discomfort is surely worth having the procedure done properly!  

There are some simple things that you can do to help reduce the chances of developing colon cancer. Eat a diet that is high in fibre and low in fat, try to avoid eating processed foods, stay active and maintain a healthy body weight. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about what foods to eat or what a healthy weight is for you.

There are some signs and symptoms to be aware of that may indicate there is a problem in the colon. These include blood in the stool or black-coloured stool, long-narrow shaped stools, abdominal cramping, or unexplained weight loss. If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms or you notice these changes, don’t delay talking to your doctor. They will be able to get to the bottom of it! 


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