Colon cancer (also known as bowel cancer or colorectal cancer) is any cancer that affects the last section of the digestive tract (usually the colon or rectum). It accounts for over 16,000 deaths in the UK each year and is one of the most prominent cancers in the UK. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can get yourself tested for this potentially lethal disease. In this article I discuss three of these bowel cancer tests.
1) RECTAL EXAM:- If you notice any symptoms which make you think you may have bowel cancer then the first test your doctor will perform is a rectal exam. They do this by putting a gloved finger up your rectum and feeling for any lumps that could be tumours. If your doctor does notice anything suspicious following this test they will then recommend some of the further colon cancer tests discussed below. This test may feel slightly awkward but should not cause any pain.
2) SIGMOIDOSCOPY:- For this test your doctor uses a thin tube called a sigmoidoscope which transmits an image of the inside of your colon onto a screen. The sigmoidoscope is inserted into your rectum which allows you doctor to look for any abnormalities such as polyps (fleshy growths in the colon), intestinal bleeding and inflammation. If your doctor does discover any polyps these can then be removed using instruments that are attached to the sigmoidoscope and sent to the lab for further testing. This colorectal cancer test may cause stomach cramps while it is being performed but these should go away after the test. You may also notice minor rectal bleeding after the sigmoidoscopy, particularly if polyps were removed. However, this should clear up within a few days.
3) COLONOSCOPY:- This test involves the use of a colonoscope (a flexible tube with a fibre optic camera attached) which allows your doctor to look at your entire large bowel. Prior to this test you will need to empty your large bowel so you will not be able to eat solid foods for two days before. To perform this test your doctor will place the colonoscope into your rectum and then look for any problem areas. Your doctor will also be able to take photographs and biopsies (tissue samples) should they notice anything suspicious. This colon cancer test is usually quite painful and in most cases you will be given sedatives or anaesthetics before the test.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, bowel cancer is a very dangerous condition. However, if it is identified early it is much more treatable. If you notice anything suspicious or start to suffer from any of the symptoms linked with colorectal cancer then you should go see your doctor and get yourself tested right away. Going in for an early colon cancer test could be the crucial factor when combating this disease.
Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative, it is intended for general information only. Colon cancer is a very serious, life threatening condition and you should discuss any concerns, treatments or lifestyle changes fully with your doctor.