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4 February 2024

Navigating Colorectal Health: A Guide to Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention

Introduction:

Colorectal cancer, ranking as the third most prevalent cancer worldwide, poses a significant threat, constituting approximately 10% of all cancer cases and standing as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. This blog is tailored for individuals aged 50 and above, providing insights into the risks, prevention strategies, and the importance of early detection through colorectal cancer screening.

Understanding Colorectal Cancer:

Colorectal cancer primarily affects individuals aged 50 and older, originating from the inner lining of the bowel. Small growths known as polyps often precede this cancer, some of which may turn invasive if left undetected. While less common types of bowel cancer do exist (lymphoma and neuroendocrine), for the majority of colorectal cancers lifestyle factors such as a high intake of processed meats, low fibre consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption contribute to their development.

Genetic Factors:

Certain individuals face an increased risk due to long-standing inflammatory bowel conditions, a history of gallstones, or a family history of first-degree relatives with the condition. Rare inherited conditions like Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), Hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) and Lynch’s syndrome, associated with gene changes, significantly elevate the risk.

Overcoming Stigma and Fear:

Historically, social stigma and fear have led to late-stage diagnoses, limiting treatment options. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle, avoiding risk factors, and practising early detection through regular directed screening can substantially reduce the incidence and impact of colorectal cancer.

Importance of Screening:

Colorectal cancer can develop anywhere in the large bowel, impacting the digestive system. The seriousness of cancer depends on its size, spread, and the individual’s overall health at the time of diagnosis. Detection and intervention at an early stage is associated with a significantly better outcome and survival. Annual bowel cancer screening, for those aged 50 to 74, is especially crucial during the high-risk years. Individuals with high-risk genetic diseases should consider more frequent screenings.

Available Screening Tests:

Several non-invasive tests, such as the faecal immunochemical test (FIT), guaiac-based faecal occult blood test (gFOBT), and multi-targeted stool DNA test (mt-sDNA), can detect signs of colorectal cancer. Annual FIT and gFOBT tests, along with triennial mt-sDNA tests, are recommended. Although over 90% of people have negative results, it’s essential to acknowledge the tests’ slight margin of error, necessitating follow-up tests.

Visual Exams and Screening Tools:

In the event of unusual findings, further visual exams of the colon and rectum may be recommended. While these exams are more invasive, they are crucial for ruling out cancer. Routine visual exams are generally reserved for individuals with a history of colorectal issues.

Screening Options at GibMed International Hospital:

GibMed International Hospital offers comprehensive colorectal screening programmes led by a team of primary care physicians, gastroenterologists, and colorectal surgical specialists. Our non-invasive screening programs, include FIT and gFOBT testing as well as mt-sDNA tests if indicated. Diagnostic and therapeutic colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy screening, and diagnostic scanning services are now also all available locally in Gibraltar.

Conclusion:

Taking control of your colorectal health involves understanding risk factors, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and participating in regular screenings. Early detection through screening can enhance treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer-related mortality. If you have a family history of polyps or bowel cancer, any concerns or you wish to discuss colorectal cancer screening, please contact us by phone on +350 200 49999, by email at info@smg.gi or via our webpage to make an appointment. Your colorectal health is our priority.