Colon Cancer Screening
In the last 30 years, the incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) has more than doubled. In 2000, CRC resulted in 1579 deaths in NSW with 4185 newly diagnosed cases [1, 3] In both men and women it is the second most common cancer, most prevalent new cancer for the overall population, and the second leading cause of cancer death. Approximately 1 in 5 Australians will be diagnosed with CRC in their lifetime , most commonly in individuals 50 years of age or older.
This form of cancer most commonly develops as a result of benign polyps which occur on the bowel wall. These polyps may eventually increase in size and result in cancer. Polyps can develop as a result of an unbalanced diet, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and obesity . Those at risk of developing this type of cancer include individuals with family history of CRC and/or polyps, as well as personal history of Ulcerative Colitis, colon polyps, and other types of cancer.
The most commonly associated symptoms are rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss and changes in bowel habits. However, one cannot rely on these symptoms as a means to diagnosing CRC as they are also indicative of several other conditions. In addition, many polyps and early cancers do not produce symptoms at all.
The good news is that CRC is preventable and in some cases curable provided it is detected at an early stage. One of the best screening methods in use today is called “colonoscopy.” This procedure enables the physician to visualise the large intestine, determine the presence of polyps and/or other abnormalities, and if necessary, remove them.
If you are 50 years of age or older, or have a family history of cancer or polyps, please contact your local doctor to obtain a referral to CDD for colon cancer screening.
Early detection and treatment of cancer is vital.
 ‘The Health of the People of New South Wales’, Report of the Chief Health Officer, NSW Health, 2002.
 ‘Cancer in New South Wales Incidence and mortality 2000 featuring projections to 2010 for selected sites’, E.A. Tracey & R. Supramaniam, NSW Central Cancer Registry, Cancer Research and Registers Division, NSW Cancer Council, May 2000.
 ‘What I Need to Know About Colon Polyps’, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NIDDK), http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/pubs/colonpolyp/colonpolyp.htm