Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States, and is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It is most common in patients over the age of 50. Fortunately, the risk of colon cancer can be greatly decreased with appropriate preventative care, including regular colonoscopies.
Because it often has no symptoms, colon cancer has been called a “silent killer”. When they do occur, symptoms can include
A change in bowel habits, diarrhea, or constipation
Blood in the stool
Bloating and gas
Nausea and vomiting
The colon is also called the large intestine or large bowel. It is the last part of the digestive tract. Its purpose is to absorb fluids and process waste products, which are ultimately eliminated from the body through bowel movements.
Two types of abnormal growths can be found in the colon. Polyps are fleshy growths on the lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are usually benign (non-cancerous), and do not spread to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumors start in the colon, but they can spread to other parts of the body.
Colon cancer tends to progress slowly, making it highly preventable and treatable if caught early. Polyps can be removed easily during a colonoscopy and are not life-threatening.
WHY SHOULD I SEE DR. PROKUPEK FOR MY COLORECTAL CARE?
Dale Prokupek, MD is an award-winning, board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He has over 14 years of experience performing colonoscopy procedures and treating complex cases of colon cancer. He understands the need for thorough evaluation, aggressive treatment, and close follow-up. Dr. Prokupek uses the most current, state-of-the-art medical equipment to accurately diagnose and treat colon cancer and other colorectal conditions, including removal of precancerous polyps.
Dale Prokupek, MD receives outstanding reviews from patients, and has been awarded the Patient’s Choice Award. He is also an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Prokupek sees patients at his private practice in Beverly Hills, and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Who should be screened?
Most men and women should undergo testing beginning at the age of 50. However, people with a high risk of colon cancer should speak to Dr. Prokupek regarding screening at an earlier age.
Family history (about 30% of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer have relatives with the disease)
Physical inactivity and a history of colorectal polyps
Growths inside the colon or rectum that can sometimes become cancerous.
In addition, Jewish people of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have higher rates of colon cancer.
Dr. Prokupek offers several screening methods for colon cancer.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
The FOBT screening involves testing a stool sample (which can be collected at home)for the presence of blood. In many cases, blood in the stool may be the first, or only, warning sign of colorectal cancer, as precancerous growths are known to bleed. Because other conditions may be responsible for blood in the stool, a colonoscopy is required after a positive FOBT to diagnose the exact cause of rectal bleeding.
This diagnostic method involves inserting a long, flexible, lighted tube into the rectum and slowly guiding it into the colon. Images are transmitted to a computer, and the physician looks for abnormal growths. If any abnormal growths are found, the physician can surgically remove them for testing (called a biopsy).
Sigmoidoscopy is similar to colonoscopy, except that it only examines the rectum and lower third of the colon, called the sigmoid. Thus, the test is shorter, around 10-20 minutes long, and more limited. As with a colonoscopy, any abnormal growths that are discovered can be biopsied and sent for testing to determine if they’re cancerous.