Colorectal cancer is a deadly cancer that claims the lives of thousands of men and women every year.  If the signs are spotted early enough, many lives can be spared.  The difference between early diagnosis and spotting the cancer in later stages is dramatic in terms of the chance of patient survival.  Learning what to watch out for can make Kansas City men and women their own best health advocates.

Cancers of the colon and rectal areas, or colorectal cancers, are diagnosed in approximately 150,000 people each year.  The outlook for these patients depends directly on the stage at which the disease is detected.  In the beginning stages, polyps form on the interior of the colon tract.  Over time, some polyps may become malignant.  If the polyps are detected while they are still in the benign stage, the disease is halted.  Colorectal cancers grow slowly. 

Routine colorectal screenings, such as a Colonoscopy, save lives.  If a cancerous growth is detected and removed before the disease has a chance to spread, a patient can expect a 90 percent chance of survival over five years.  Once the disease has metastasized, that rate drops to ten percent.  Early detection is vital.  Most researchers recommend that routine screenings for colorectal cancer begin at age 50, although a family history of the disease warrants screenings to begin at a younger age. Screenings
Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a thin tube equipped with a light is inserted through the sedated patient's rectum.  Doctors are able to spot the presence of polyps, and remove them, during a colonoscopy.  The polyps are then sent to a pathology lab for cancer testing.  Other tests, including stool analysis and barium enemas are performed as well.

Symptoms
Serious attention should be paid to the presence of any colon cancer symptoms.  Some colorectal cancers can be present without any symptoms, for this reason regular screening is essential as well.
  1. Rectal bleeding
  2. Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  3. "Full" feeling after a bowel movement
  4. Weight loss 
  5. Changes in bowel habits
  6. Pain or discomfort in the abdomen

Patients with any of these symptoms should be screened to eliminate the possibility of colorectal cancer.  Unfortunately, doctors sometimes miss the chance to catch this devastating illness early.  Failing to order a colonoscopy for blood in the stool or to investigate unexplained anemia wastes precious time for the patient in question.

Failing to remove polyps during a colonoscopy, missing parts of the colon during the colonoscopy inspection, or failing to follow up with a patient after the colonoscopy are all missed chances as well.  Simply failing to discuss the necessity of a colonoscopy with a patient who presents the symptoms can lead to a failure to detect the disease early enough for survival. 

When doctors fail to diagnosis cancers of the colon or rectal area in their earliest stages, devastating consequences often ensure. Permanent bowel damage, inoperable cancer, invasive treatment and premature death can all accompany a missed or failed diagnosis.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.