Colorectal cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in adults. But you can help protect yourself against it by doing a faecal blood occult test to screen for it so you remove polyps before they turn into cancer. Bonitas covers a faecal occult blood test every year for members aged 50-75 to screen for colorectal cancer. Early detection and treatment is key, so contact your GP and get tested.
What is colorectal cancer?
It is a disease that starts as a growth called a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some polyps change into cancer over several years. But not all polyps become cancerous. The chance of a polyp changing into cancer depends on the kind of polyp. If cancer forms in a polyp, it can begin to grow into the wall of the colon or rectum and grow into blood vessels or lymph vessels. It can then travel to nearby lymph nodes or distant parts of the body. The extent of this disease depends on how deeply it grows into the wall and whether it has spread outside the colon or rectum.
Colorectal cancer is more common after age 50
If you have a history of adenomatous polyps or have had colorectal cancer before, but it has been removed, you are at an increased risk. If your parent, sibling or child have had this disease or you have had inflammatory bowel disease you are at increased risk. There is no way to prevent it. But you can lower your risk by changing risk factors you can control. For example, you can make sure you don?t become overweight. You can stay physically active. Avoid a diet high in red meats and processed meats. You can also stop smoking and drinking heavily.
What is a faecal occult blood test?
This test detects if there is blood in your stools. It is used to diagnose bleeding disorders in your gut and screens for cancer. There are many medical conditions that may cause rectal bleeding including haemorrhoids and gastroenteritis. Heavy bleeding in your gut is obvious as it will show up in your stool and you should see your doctor immediately. But there is blood that may be in your stools, but is not visible to the naked eye. A test for occult blood in the faeces is an indirect stool sample-based test that can detect colonic neoplasms or tumours.
When are faecal occult blood tests recommended?
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You may have symptoms such as abdominal pain, weight loss, bloating, nausea or vomiting and tiredness with or without cardiac symptoms. This could cause you to take a faecal occult test. But you may also have no symptoms and your doctor may recommend a colorectal cancer screening during a routine check-up, especially if you are over 50. These tests help screen the risk of older individuals with no history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease.
How is the faecal occult blood test performed?
You'll be asked to give a small sample of your stool. This will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Before going for this test, you don?t have to follow a restrictive diet. But you should avoid a high vitamin C intake. Sometimes your family doctor may do a rectal examination and an in-room occult stool test. However, generally more than one sample will be needed to send to a lab. It?s important to note that a positive result does not mean you have cancer. The faecal occult blood test is a screening tool only. And all positive screening tests must be followed up with a colonoscopy to confirm a diagnosis.
What kind of treatment is available?
Most people with early colorectal cancer have surgery when the surgeon is able to remove all of the cancer without any further treatment needed. You may be recommended and given radiotherapy, chemotherapy or some biological therapies as treatment.