Colon health is not a fun topic. But if you smoke, drink, eat red meat and skip fruit and vegetables in your diet, or if you have a history of cancer in your family, you’ll want to read this. Take your colon health seriously, because if you don’t, it could kill you.
A new study, conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, suggests that bowel preparation, including colon cleansing, is integral to successful screening for and diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Those who didn’t prepare, or prepared poorly for their procedure missed pre-cancerous polyps by 42 per cent.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a cancer in the colon, rectum or vermiform appendix, and is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world. GLOBOCAN estimates that 1.23 million new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2008, with roughly 600,000 deaths.
While colorectal cancer is an international killer, it’s more common in developed countries, where more than half of fatalities occur. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:
- age – most commonly in the 60s and 70s
- excessive alcohol consumption
- a diet high in red meat, low in fish, fruits and vegetables
- low levels of selenium and vitamin B6
- a family history of colon cancer
A colonoscopy is an examination of the colon and distal part of the small bowel, to examine or remove tissue or legions and to screen for precancerous polyps, or adenomas. The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women undergo a colonoscopy at least every ten years after age 50.
Adenomas develop slowly, and therefore survival of colorectal cancer relies on screening and early detection.
Colon Cleansing Might Reveal Colorectal Cancer
In the study, conducted over two years and published in the June issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, researchers examined the bowel preparation of 12,787 patients who underwent the procedure.
Preparation for a colonoscopy takes several days. Patients are often asked to drink a gallon of an oral supplement to induce diarrhea (to empty the colon), partake only in clear liquids and avoid nuts, seeds and insoluble fibers, up to three days before the procedure.
Bowel preparation was fair or poor for in 24%, or roughly 3,000 of the study participants. Of those 3,000, 17% underwent a follow-up colonoscopy, with proper colon cleansing, within three years of the original procedure. Surgeons found 198 adenomas in the repeated procedure, of which 83 were only spotted in the follow-up.
In addition, some patients underwent a follow-up procedure within a year of the original colonoscopy, with a miss rate of 35% for adenomas and 36% for adenomas with advanced growth.
The findings reveal that colon cleansing is essential to identify and treat colorectal cancer. Men and women over 50 should have a colonoscopy at least once a decade, and failing to prepare for a colonoscopy, without proper bowel preparation, can be an expensive, time-consuming, even fatal consequence.
What should you take from this article? Take your colon health seriously. Watch the alcohol intake, eat your vegetables and talk to your doctor. And if that means you should cleanse your colon once a decade, take a deep breath and do it.