COLON CANCER: The colon refers to the large intestine, located in the lower abdomen region of the body. Colon cancer usually begins in the glands in the lining of the colon and rectum (end of the colon) which is why it is often referred to as colorectal cancer. Almost all colon cancer starts out as noncancerous polyps that then become cancerous over time. Symptoms of colon cancer include pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen, blood in stool, unexplained changes in bowel movements (such as diarrhea or constipation), and unexplained weight loss. However, some of these symptoms do not become noticeable until the cancer has already progressed. It is best when colon cancer is discovered in the early stages because most patients will live for 5 years after the diagnosis and if the cancer does not return after 5 years, they are considered cured. Once colon cancer reaches the fourth stage, it is typically considered incurable and fatal. (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
COLONOSCOPY: A colonoscopy examines inside the colon and rectum using a long, lighted tube named a colonoscope in order to see if any polyps are present. This may sound like an unsavory experience for most people but the patient is sedated and is the most complete screening method available. Perforation of the large intestine or bleeding is a risk of the procedure, but a small one. (Source: www.ccalliance.org)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1) Split-dosing refers to taking half the laxative prescription the night before colonoscopy, and the other half on the day of the procedure, usually about four to five hours before the procedure is scheduled. Several studies have shown that split-dosing significantly improves the quality of the preparation for colonoscopy.
2) Most insurers cover the procedure—it's required by law in about half the states unless you choose a different method, like sedation. Be sure to ask ahead of time whether there will be an anesthesiologist and, if so, whether insurance will cover it.
3) The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy says you don’t need to stop taking aspirin before a colonoscopy, regardless of whether a polyp is removed. If you’re on aspirin for a good reason like a prior heart attack or stroke, it’s better to continue taking it.
4) Last year a handful of medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, updated their list of most recommended tests. The preferred alternatives: flexible sigmoidoscopy (in which a flexible tube is inserted in the rectum but not as far into the bowel as with a colonoscopy) every five years, double-contrast barium enema every five years, or virtual colonoscopy every five years.
( Source: The New York times, U.S.News)