Type of Surgery
Last updated: 02/17/2009
In 2003, an estimated 57,100 people will die from colorectal cancer. Although screening could find precancerous growths (polyps), which lead to colorectal cancer, screening rates in the United States remain low. Removing polyps before they turn into...
cancer could prevent the disease and potentially reduce deaths. Scientific evidence shows that more than one-third of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided if people aged 50 years and older were screened regularly.
Despite recent advances in screening and treatment for colon cancer, it is still one of the most common cancers among men and women in the United States. According to a report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, there has been no improvement in colon cancer survival in the United States since the 1980s. As well, the number of patients surviving five years after their cancer diagnosis did not improve.
Recent National Cancer Institute-funded clinical trials show that taking daily aspirin for as little as three years could reduce the development of colorectal polyps by 19â€“35% in people at high risk for colorectal cancer.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 50 years of age and over have one or a combination of the four recommended screening tests: fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or barium enema.
Colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the large colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. It may provide a visual diagnosis (e.g. ulceration, polyps) and grants the opportunity for biopsy or removal of suspected lesions. Virtual colonoscopy, which uses 2D and 3D imagery reconstructed from computed tomography (CT) scans or from nuclear magnetic resonance (MR) scans, is also possible, as a totally non-invasive medical test, although it is not standard and still under investigation regarding its diagnostic abilities. Furthermore, virtual colonoscopy does not allow for therapeutic maneuvers such as polyp/tumor removal or biopsy nor visualization of lesions smaller than 5 millimeters. If a growth or polyp is detected using CT colonography, a standard colonoscopy would still need to be performed. Colonoscopy can remove polyps as small as one millimeter or less. Once polyps are removed, they can be studied with the aid of a microscope to determine if they are precancerous or not. Colonoscopy is similar to but not the same as sigmoidoscopy. The difference between colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy is related to which parts of the colon each can examine. Sigmoidoscopy allows doctors to view only the final two feet of the colon, while colonoscopy allows an examination of the entire colon, which measures four to five feet in length. Often a sigmoidoscopy is used as a screening procedure for a full colonoscopy. In many instances a sigmoidoscopy is performed in conjunction with a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which can detect the formation of cancerous cells throughout the colon.
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