There are quite a few periodic checkups that we recommend doing through our HMO. And because they are “annoying”, we usually tend to push them away from the crowded schedule of life and postpone them until the moment when there is no choice. But what if we tell you that some are really life-saving?
One of them is the early detection test for colon cancer. Colon cancer is known to be the second most common cause of death in Israel. Every year about 3,000 patients are diagnosed, and about 1,400 die from the disease. “Colon cancer, unlike other cancers, is the only one that can be prevented, by early detection of the disease, which is done through a colonoscopy or alternatively a blood test in the stool,” says Dr. Shlomo Lewkowicz, a Technion graduate and chairman. A restraining order association and an expert in the field for over 25 years.
Unlike other cancers, colon cancer is characterized by a pre-cancerous period that can last for years. In fact, during this period, benign polyps that do not develop cancer and do not cause symptoms in the body develop. The symptoms of the disease will appear only at a later stage, when the polyps become malignant, and as a result the chances of recovery are considerably reduced.
The good news is that according to data from the Ministry of Health, the survival rate of patients has been increasing over the years thanks to the new drugs that have been added to the health basket, as well as the surgical methods that have become more sophisticated over time. However, on average after five years only about 60% of patients survive after undergoing a course of agony of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and difficult drug treatments.
According to Levkovich, early detection of the disease significantly saves lives. The recovery rates in colorectal cancer that are detected in the early stages are about 90%, compared to the low survival rates of 10% -20% in stage 4 of the disease (due to the metastases that spread in the body). Dr. Lewkowicz also explains that in the last decade, awareness of the early detection of the disease has risen among the general sector, which has led to a 35% decrease in the number of new cases, compared with a decrease of only 10% in the Arab sector.
So how do we know at what stage we should go and get tested? Here are some tips to help you make a decision.
Have you reached the age of 50? Get tested
Most people diagnosed with the disease are in the fifth decade of life and beyond, so according to the Ministry of Health recommendation, a colonoscopy should be performed every 5-10 years, even if there are not necessarily any symptoms indicative of the disease. The test can be obtained by referral from a family doctor, and is done at the expense of the HMOs. At these ages, the detection of polyps in the colon is common and during the colonoscopy the doctors remove them easily, however the main concern is that they will later be found to be cancerous, so it is of paramount importance for a test that detects them early. Removing the polyps from the gut gives you between 5 and 10 years of silence until the next examination.
Young people are not necessarily immune
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the incidence of the disease among young people aged 20 to 50. According to professional estimates, out of about 3,000 patients who are diagnosed each year, about 350 of them are young. Unlike adults, cancer in young people is more aggressive, so if you suffer from these symptoms, it is very important to consult a doctor as soon as possible – a conversation that may save your life:
Drastic weight loss
Strong and prolonged abdominal pain
Visible blood in the stool
Diarrhea or constipation lasting weeks
Maintain a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle
Smoking, increased alcohol consumption, obesity and consumption of red meat and processed meat products have been shown in various studies to significantly increase the chance of developing colon cancer. On the other hand, a Dutch study found that consumption of dark chocolate and red wine may actually moderate the risk of getting sick. Maintaining a balanced diet that combines eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, sea fish and olive oil alongside constant exercise does help reduce the risk of getting sick. However, it is important to note that even among those who adhere to a healthy lifestyle, polyps may develop in the gut and therefore it is mandatory for everyone to go get tested.
Relatives of a cancer patient? You may be at risk of getting sick
If a first-degree relative, such as parents, siblings, and children, has colon cancer, there is a nearly twice-normal risk of having patients in the family, so it is advisable to get tested from age 40, or alternatively 10 years before diagnosing the disease in a relative. If the test is normal, be sure to perform follow-up tests every 5 years or as recommended by a doctor.
Suffering from inflammatory bowel problems? It is recommended to be checked more frequently
If you are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or colitis, unfortunately you are at a higher risk than usual of getting it. Thus, according to the recommendations of doctors one should go and be examined more often from an early age.