Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the colon or rectum. Starting as a polyp in the inner lining of the colon or rectum and growing to the center. While most polyps are not cancer, certain types can become cancer. Removing these polyps early may keep them from developing into cancer.
With more than 200,000 new cases each year, colon cancer is the third most common form cancer in America.
Colon cancer is unique amongst cancers in that it can be cured at an early stage, if discovered during colonoscopy as a polyp, and removed by the simple endoscopic procedure of polypectomy. Under these circumstances, (Stake I colon cancer), 5 and 10 year survival is very high.
Colon cancer grows by invading through the colon wall and spreading through the lymphatic system, and is “staged” from the earliest polyps (Stage I), through the more advanced and invasive cancers (Stage IV). If left undiagnosed and unchecked, average survival rate for all stages of colon cancer (I through IV) is 70% at 5 years. Colon cancer is also a very slow growing malignancy: In vitro cell studies estimate that colon cancer takes 10 years to evolve from the earliest genetic defect, to a lesion which can be detected on endoscopy.
The single most important measure to prevent and cure colorectal cancer is the simple act of performing a colonoscopy by the age of 50, so long as there are no strong family history of the disease, and so long as an individual is not experiencing worrisome symptoms such as abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or weight loss. Every woman and man age 50 or over should have a colonoscopy. Screening is important as four out of five people with colon cancer have no family history of it.
This is good news for five million Americans who turn fifty each year. A colonoscopy is simple, safe and painless procedure when performed by a qualified and experienced surgeon. Absent severe symptoms, the chances of having a normal colon, without polyps or other serious findings are over 90%. If early stage polyps are found, they can be removed, with an almost 90% survival. Follow up involves having a repeat colonoscopy every 5-10 years as it almost guarantees a life free of colon cancer.