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Do I need to see a colon cancer specialist?

Your physician could recommend several options to prevent the development of colon cancer or determine if in fact you do have colon cancer. They most likely will recommend screening tests for healthy patients with no signs or symptoms for early detection. Encountering colon cancer at its earliest stage delivers the greatest possibility to be cured. Early screening has shown to reduce your risk of dying from colon cancer.


It is usually recommended that people get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50. If colon cancer runs in your family, many physicians suggest you start screening even earlier. African-Americans and American Indians should contemplate beginning colon cancer screening at age 45 as it is a more prevalent cancer in their lineage.


There are several screening options housing their own benefits and drawbacks. Discuss your options with your physician and decide which tests are appropriate for you. When a colonoscopy is selected for screening, any polyps discovered can be removed during the procedure before they turn into cancer.


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How does a doctor check for colon cancer?

If your signs and symptoms point to a diagnosis of colon cancer, your physician should recommend one or more tests and procedures, including:


  • Blood tests. Although they cannot tell you if you have colon cancer, they can provide clues about your overall health such as kidney and liver functions.
  • A colonoscopy. This test utilizes a long, flexible, slender tube that has a video camera connected to a monitor to view your colon and rectum. Where areas indicate a level of suspicion, your physician will pass surgical tools through the tube to take tissue samples (biopsies) for analysis and remove polyps.
  • A gastroenterologist may test your blood for a chemical produced by colon cancers (carcinoembryonic antigen or CEA). The level of CEA in your blood could assist your physician with delivering your prognosis or determine if your cancer is responding to treatment.

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

Contact your physician if you experience any symptoms of colorectal cancer, like:


  • Stomach pain or problems with gas or bloating
  • Bleeding from the rectum or stools that look black
  • Constant tiredness (fatigue)
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Constant or frequent diarrhea or constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss

In most cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. Most people in the early stages of colon cancer will experience no symptoms. Once symptoms appear, they can vary dependening upon the cancer's size and location in your large intestine.

When colorectal cancer turns out to be the cause of symptoms experienced, it is often because the cancer has grown or spread. That is why it’s best to be tested early - before experiencing any symptoms. Colorectal cancer found through screening on people not presenting symptoms – is usually easier to treat. Contact your physician for screening immediately if you experience any signs or symptoms of the disease.


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