Categorized | Cancer

Diagnosis of Colon Cancer

Colon or bowel cancer is typically diagnosed by the doctor performing a manual examination by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum in order to identify lumps or adenomas. Biopsy is a painless procedure when a tiny sample of the affected tissue is taken and used to trace the cancerous cells.

When further examination is needed, a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy may be performed. In the case of colonoscopy, which takes about half an hour, the patient is put to sleep in order to prevent discomfort. Sigmoidoscopy is usually performed while the patient is conscious and takes about ten minutes. Both procedures involve inserting a long thin tube into the patient‘s large colon through the anus, which enables the doctors to investigate the lining of the large intestine more closely. If any abnormalities or lumps are found, a sample of the abnormal tissue is taken and sent for analysis.

A barium enema is another method of examination that may be used. In this case, a liquid form of barium sulphate is applied to the colon through a small tube inserted into the rectal opening. Later on, a small amount of air is pumped into the colon through a small device similar to a balloon. This is necessary since barium sulphate can be seen in X-ray images and the inflated air gives an even clearer picture of the shape of the colon. An X-ray photograph of the intestines is finally taken. The procedure lasts for about half an hour in total. This method generally is more comfortable than the two previous procedures, but it is performed while the patient is fully awake. It can provide a full image of the whole colon, but it is less detailed that which means that some tiny polyps can end up unnoticed.

For all three of the mentioned procedures, the patient‘s large intestine has to be purged of waste and impurities. It is cleaned by administering certain medicines that prompts the digestive tract to clear the intestines. This part of the examination is usually considered the most uncomfortable by many patients.

If cancer is present, the next step is to determine how advanced the tumour is and how far it has spread. Depending on the results of the staging, the doctors will establish the most suitable treatment and the chances of recovery.

Scanning is not reliable enough yet to be used for diagnosing bowel cancer, but possibilities are being investigated.

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