Colorectal/Bowel Cancer

Is blood in the faeces a symptom of intestinal cancer?

You need to watch out for a small difference in blood in the stool. If it appears mixed with the faecal matter, it may be a sign of bowel cancer; but if it is separated from the stool, it could be simply caused by the haemorrhoids. It is necessary to stay alert, seek medical attention, and have a rectal examination performed, in order to have a definitive diagnosis.

How often should I get a colonoscopy?

Screening methods for breast, cervical and prostate cancer are already part of the general population’s mindset when it comes to early diagnosis and prevention of neoplasms. Almost everyone is familiar with the indications for mammography, Pap smears, and prostate exams. However, few know or have heard of an equally important exam in this regard: the preventive colonoscopy.

It may be news to many, but it is no exaggeration to say that cancer of the rectum and large intestine (colon) are the easiest neoplasms to prevent in medicine. This is because in most cases they originate from premalignant lesions (polyps) that can be identified by colonoscopy, even before they develop into cancer. Colonoscopy, in simple terms, is a diagnostic method that, by means of a camera, allows the doctor to see inside the final portion of the digestive tract. This way precursor lesions can be identified from the beginning of the large intestine (cecum) all the way to the rectum, with the advantage of making the collection of biopsies, and even their complete resection, sparing the patient from invasive surgery.

As is well known, the key to prevention is regular screening. Several validated tests are available for this purpose, including faecal occult blood testing, faecal tumour DNA testing, and flexible proctosigmoidoscopy. Since we know that colonoscopy also assumes an important role for its therapeutic properties, we will now discuss it specifically.

Ideally, a baseline preventive colonoscopy should be performed on all people at age 50. Then, based on its findings, a follow-up plan will be drawn up by the attending physician. If the exam results are normal, the patient might only need another one in 5 to 10 years. Otherwise, if premalignant polyps are found, depending on their quantity, appearance and size, check-ups may be recommended every 2 to 3 years.

But people at higher risk deserve particular care. In families with high prevalence of the disease, and where there are affected close relatives present, colonoscopy examinations should begin at age 40, or 10 years before

Are polyps cancers?

No. A colorectal polyp is a lump of cells that protrude into the colon. Most of them are harmless, although some have the potential to develop into a cancer that, if left untreated, can spread throughout the body.

Is diverticulitis cancer?

No. Diverticula are small pouches that form on the walls of the digestive tract and are very common in the colon, especially after the age of 40. They are composed of healthy tissue, with no malignant features. When one of these structures becomes inflamed, in a similar way to appendicitis, diverticulitis sets in. This process is common in elderly patients and can range from simple cases, treated simply with antibiotics, to complex cases requiring surgical treatment.