Colon Cancer: When to See a Specialist

December 19, 2017

Colon Cancer: When to See a Specialist


People with a family history of colon cancer should take steps to learn about the disease and preventative measures that can decrease their risk of getting it. Individuals who have been diagnosed with colon cancer in the early stages can take heart that this disease is one of the most curable types of cancer. When a person discovers that he or she has this type of cancer, it is important that he or she consult with specialists who utilize the latest developments and technology in battling the disease.

About Colon Cancer

Cancer of the colon is the third most common type of cancer in the U.S., and the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 95,000 new cases diagnosed in 2017.

Colon cancer can occur in the colon or rectum. The large intestine is called the colon, and it is at the end of the digestive tract nearest the rectum. Typically, the beginning of cancer in this area starts with small clumps of benign (noncancerous) cells that form polyps. Some of the polyps may eventually turn into cancer.  The purpose of a colonocscopy is to find and remove these polyps.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

Some risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of getting colon cancer include:

  1. Being older than 50. Except in African Americans where their risk in increases after 45.
  2. Having a family history of colon cancer. This risk is even greater if more than one family member has had the disease.
  3. African- Americans are more prone to getting colon cancer than any other race. They should be screened at age 45.
  4. A personal history of having adenomatous polyps, or colon cancer in the past. People with chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis have increased risks as well.
  5. Patients who have had radiation therapy directed at their abdominal area for treatment of other types of cancers have a greater chance of developing colon cancer.
  6. Habits like smoking or heavy use of alcohol increase a person’s risk.
  7. Diabetes or being overweight increases the chances of getting this disease.
  8. Eating a diet that is high in fat and low in fiber or leading a sedentary lifestyle can also increase the risk of getting colon cancer.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Since polyps in the colon are so tiny, they rarely produce any symptoms. This is why it is important for adults to be screened for colon cancer when their doctor recommends it. Generally, people start getting screened for colon cancer when they turn 50, and then it is recommended that they repeat the test about every five years if polyps are found. If the patient has risk factors, the doctor may decide to screen for colon cancer at an earlier age and to repeat the test more often.

Some symptoms of the disease include:

  1. The presence of blood in the stool or bleeding from the rectum.
  2. Persistent pain in the abdominal area, such as the kind caused by gas, or cramps.
  3. Weight loss when the person hasn’t been on a diet or tried to lose weight.
  4. Unexplained and persistent fatigue.
  5. A change in the consistency of normal stools, or diarrhea or constipation that lasts over a month. Narrowing of the stool may also be a symptom if the issue persists longer than a few weeks.
  6. The need to have a bowel movement, and then feeling no relief afterward.

Screening Tests to Detect Colon Cancer

The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends that most people have colon cancer screenings starting at about age 50. They advise that regular screening is continued until at least age 75. After that, the screenings are done at the discretion of the patient. People with a family medical history of colon cancer and patients who have other risk factors are often advised to start screening at younger ages and to have them more often.

There are various screening tests to detect colon cancer in the earliest stages. The most effective method is the colonoscopy.

Other effective tests include the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), the stool DNA test and the double-contrast barium enema.

Treatment Plans to Conquer Colon Cancer

The cancer specialists in San Antonio will determine which type of treatment is best for the patient depending on the stage of cancer, and the patient’s overall health and preferences. These treatment plans can include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy and biological therapy. A plan of action may also include combinations of these regimens.

When you decide to look for the best colon cancer screening and treatment in San Antonio, search for doctors who are knowledgeable about the disease and whose top priority is to provide compassionate and top-quality patient care. Contact the Digestive & Liver Disease Center of San Antonio PLLC to make an appointment with Dr. Robert Narvaez MD, MBA. He is one of the top colon cancer specialists in the area and has a reputation for focusing on every patient as a person, and not simply a statistic.