March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Former President Corazon Aquino and actress Rio Diaz both died because of colon cancer. But what else do Filipinos know about colon cancer?
Colon cancer is the fourth cancer-related cause of death in our country. It is also the most common cancer of the gastrointestinal tract among Filipinos according to the report of International Agency for Research on Cancer published in 2012. Sadly, most of us have little or no knowledge about colon cancer.
Are You At Risk?
Filipinos who are 50 years and older have a higher risk of having colon cancer. Other factors to consider are personal and family history of polyps and colorectal cancer, diseases that involve inflammation of the colon, unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, alcohol intake, high consumption of red meat and processed meat, and obesity.
What Can You Do?
Be screened. The following are screening tests available in the hospital:
Fecal Occult Blood Test. This type of test is the less invasive and most affordable. All you have to do is submit a stool sample. This test looks for the presence of blood in the stool. A positive result can be an indication that something is wrong in the colon and the doctor will request for colonoscopy. FOBT is required annually.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. An invasive type of test, this involves visualization of the lower colon and the rectum. Removal of polyps or tumors and biopsies can be performed just like colonoscopy but abnormalities in the upper colon may be missed out. An unfavorable result will require the patient to undergo colonoscopy. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is repeated every 3-5 years.
Colonoscopy. This is the gold standard in colon cancer screening. This test can extensively examine the entire colon using a scope. Polyps, pre-cancerous, and cancerous growth can be found and removed during the procedure. Biopsies can also be done. A normal result will require patients to repeat the procedure every 5-10 years.
The Truth About Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. Have a lifestyle check. Are you having a healthy diet? Eating food rich in fiber lowers your risk. Although age is a factor that is unmodifiable, be diligent in complying with the medical recommendations of your doctors. Know your body. If you notice any changes, consult your doctor.