Colon cancer is the second leading cause of deaths resulting from cancer. Every year, approximately 48,000 people will die in the U.S. from colon cancer. Many of these deaths would be prevented with early detection and treatment through routine colon cancer screening. colon screenings has some nice tips on this.
Colon Cancer Progresses Through Stages
The stage of the colon cancer determines the appropriate treatment and determines the patient’s relative 5-year survival rate which is the percentage of colon cancer patients who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed. Colon cancer progresses in stages as follows:
Stage 0: The disease starts as a small non-cancerous growth, called a polyp, in the colon. Some of these polyps become precancerous, and over time, turn cancerous. Growth has not progressed beyond the inner layer (mucosa) of the colon.
Stage 1: The cancer has started to work its way through the first layers of the colon – the mucosa and the submucosa.
Stage 2: The cancer has advanced beyond the first two layers of the colon and is spreading deeper through the wall of the colon into the muscularis and the serosa but is not in the lymph nodes or distant organs.
Stage 3: The cancer has spread to one or more of the nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4: The cancer has spread to other organs (typically the liver or the lungs).
Screening for Colon Cancer
In order to detect colon cancer early, everyone, even individuals who are not at high risk, that is, with no symptoms and with no family history of colon cancer, should be screened. Cancer specialists suggest that screening for such individuals start at age 50 and consist of tests that detect colon cancer in the body:
-Colonoscopy, at least every ten years,
-Sigmoidoscopy, at least every 5 years,
-Double-contrast Barium Enema, at least every 5 years, or
-Virtual Colonoscopy (computed tomographic colonography), at least every 5 years
These tests allow a doctor to actually see the growth or cancer inside the colon. The frequency at which these tests are repeated depends on what is found during the procedure.