Treatments & Therapies

Colorectal cancer screening – treatment, effects & risks

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Colon cancer is the most common malignant tissue change in Europe. Every year around 66,000 people are diagnosed in Germany alone. Because the symptoms are often varied, colorectal cancer is often diagnosed late. Early detection through colon cancer screening offers good chances of recovery.

What is colon cancer screening?

From the age of 50, statutory health insurance companies offer regular check-ups in order to detect colon cancer as early as possible. The earlier the disease is noticed, the better the chances of recovery. Various measures are used as part of the preventive medical check-up. Not all examinations are repeated at the same interval.

Colonoscopies are usually only performed every ten years if the findings are unremarkable . Based on the results, the doctor treating you determines the individual risk of colon cancer and, if necessary, initiates further measures. Heredity plays an important role in colorectal cancer. 

If there are already cases of illness in the family, these should be mentioned during the first conversation. The check-up for the early diagnosis of colon cancer is free of charge for the insured person from the age of 50 with statutory health insurance companies.

Function, effect & goals

Early detection of the first signs of cancer is therefore at the heart of colorectal cancer screening. The doctor uses different methods to assess the condition of the intestine . First, there is a detailed discussion between doctor and patient. All complaints should be described here, if any exist. Information on illnesses in the family also provides important information. The examination usually begins with a palpation of the rectum .

An occult blood test helps identify blood in the stool that may not be apparent at first glance. A positive result may indicate colon cancer. However, because this is not a clear result, further investigations must be carried out to rule out that the red blood cells got into the faeces due to other complaints. Health insurance companies guarantee rectal examinations every 3 to 5 years. A perfect reflection at least twice in a lifetime. Despite the risks of a colonoscopy, it should be performed at least once.

For further early detection measures, people who do not belong to the risk group can choose between an occult blood test, which takes place every two years, or a colonoscopy at intervals of ten years. Such a selection does not apply to risk patients and is replaced by regular thorough examinations. In general, a colonoscopy is considered more reliable. Because polyps don’t bleed continuously , the occult blood test can be negative despite the presence of cancer . At the same time, a positive test does not always mean colon cancer. The test may trigger a false alarm.

In most cases, colon cancer develops from growths in the lining of the colon . Because these only grow very slowly, the chances of a cure are high if they are detected in good time. However, early detection and prevention cannot be equated. 

The various methods for an early diagnosis are not part of prevention, they only improve the prognosis through early treatment. Prevention itself includes, above all, the individual behavior of the patient. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can have a preventive effect. As part of the diet, animal products should be reduced and replaced by a high proportion of plant-based food. Regular consumption of alcohol and tobaccopromotes the development of tissue changes.

Instead, aim for a healthy weight and regular bowel movements. Consuming enough fiber, fruits and vegetables contributes to good digestion . Regular appointments with the doctor to check the intestines may lead to a significant increase in life. Because men suffer from colon cancer twice as often as women, it is worth examining the topic in detail. Socially, colonoscopies are more of a taboo. However, because they are highly likely to detect polyps, there should be no false shame.

Risks, side effects & dangers

The methods for early detection of colorectal cancer do not only have advantages. For example, in some patients, a colonoscopy can injure the organ, resulting in bleeding . Bleeding cannot be ruled out, especially if polyps are removed during the examination. Because mirroring is only necessary every ten years, the risk can be reduced in this way.

If there are no signs of colon cancer during the examination, there is a high probability that it will not develop in the next ten years. However, if polyps have turned out, it is usually necessary to remove them. Strict action also applies to a positive occult blood test.

To make sure that the blood cells have not gotten into the stool via polyps, a mirror examination may be necessary. The individual risk is decisive for further provision. When first-degree relatives have had colorectal cancer, greater attention is always paid to preventive measures and early detection.

If the doctor determines that the risk is only low, it should be considered whether a colonoscopy should still be used or whether the possible harm outweighs the benefit in such a case. Sensitive people may have allergies to the materials used.

In rare cases, pain is to be expected during the colonoscopy, although this is more often perceived as unpleasant than painful. In case of anxiety, it is possible to put the patient under general anesthesia . If you are pregnant or taking certain medications, you should clarify whether a colonoscopy can generally be considered.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.