Bad news: in the list of the most deadly cancer diseases, intestinal cancer is at one of the first places. Each year in Germany, 62,430 new cases of diseases are registered, as well as 25.999 deaths.
Good news: with timely diagnostics of intestinal cancer – 100% cured. Early detection of intestinal cancer is the best chance to save life! To recognize intestinal cancer at the earliest possible stage, women and men need to undergo early recognition diagnostics no later than at the age of 50. People with a family history of cancer should take part in the program for the prevention of colon cancer much earlier. Here you can find more information about the family risk with intestinal cancer.
The purpose of early diagnostics
Early diagnostics is aimed at detecting intestinal cancer at the earliest possible stage so that it can be cured. To prevent the development of intestinal cancer can be by timely detection of its dangerous predecessors – intestinal polyps. During the prevention of cancer, the intestinal polyps are detected and removed before they can be transformed into intestinal cancer. Polyps of the intestine are benign growth of the intestinal mucosa, which, however, over the years can develop into a malignant form. It may take 10 years before such changes in the mucous membrane lead to a cancerous disease. Since polyps do not have any significant symptoms, they can be detected only by regular preventive examinations! If polyps are detected during a colonoscopy, in most cases they can be removed completely with the help of an electric loop.
How does early diagnostics work?
With age, the risk of developing colon cancer increases. Not later than at the age of 50 every person should take part in the program for the prevention of intestinal cancer. However, if the family traces the hereditary (family) risk factor for this disease, then prevention is especially important already at the young age. You can study the history of your family for cases of intestinal cancer or intestinal polyps to find out how much of a risk factor is inherent in your case.
There are different methods of early recognition. They differ from each other, above all, the reliability of the results of the examination.
Physical examination with palpatory examination of the intestine: palpatory examination of the intestine is a simple method of examination, with which the doctor can grope tumors in the rectum. However, since many intestinal tumors are located on other, higher-lying areas of the intestine, the use of only this method is insufficient to prevent intestinal cancer.
Examinations of stool (analysis for hidden blood): polyps of the intestine and tumors often secrete blood. In most cases, this blood cannot be recognized with the naked eye. With the help of a simple analysis of hidden blood, you can recognize invisible traces of blood in the stool. After 50 years, this analysis is carried out once a year. Due to its use, it is possible to detect more polyps and tumors than in a single palpation examination of the rectum. Since during the examination of stool, it is possible to detect hidden blood in stool, this method assumes that the polyps are bleeding, that is, the reliability of this method depends on the behavior of the polyps. Polyps bleed not always – so it is important to conduct this analysis more than once, but regularly. Only those who regularly analyze once a year have the opportunity to reduce their risk of developing intestinal cancer. If the analysis for hidden blood at least once showed a positive result, then in this case it is necessary (!) To conduct a colonoscopy for more accurate diagnostics of the causes.
Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is the most effective and accurate method of early detection of colon cancer. Of all the above mentioned methods of examination, only in the framework of this procedure, even small changes in the intestinal mucosa can be recognized with accuracy. In colonoscopy, the entire large intestine and rectum are examined with a colonoscope for changes in the mucosa. During the examination, you can also take tissue samples (biopsies) from the intestinal mucosa. If the doctor detects polyps of the intestine, they can remove them endoscopically using a loop. Along with the available accurate optical methods, colonoscopy is the method by which you can really prevent the development of intestinal cancer. The annual analysis of stool for hidden blood along with prophylactic colonoscopy, which is carried out once in 10 years, reduces the risk of developing intestinal cancer by almost 90%. In Germany, since October 2002, colonoscopy is a part of a statutory program for the prevention of colon cancer for people over 55. For patients at this age, all the costs of conducting preventive colonoscopy are taken by the health insurance funds in the system of statutory health insurance.
Virtual colonoscopy: A virtual colonoscopy is a new high-tech method for examining the inside of the intestine and detecting changes. If a classical colonoscopy device, that is, a flexible endoscope, is inserted into the intestine, then the virtual colonoscopy is not performed directly on the patient’s body, but is simulated on the computer monitor. For this, computer or magnetic resonance imaging is necessary. For some patients, a virtual colonoscopy is more pleasant than a classical colonoscopy. However, the disadvantage of this method is that small polyps of the intestine or inflammatory changes in the intestinal walls are not recognized. In addition, with virtual colonoscopy, it is not possible to take a biopsy for microscopic examination, and to remove polyps.
Where can you conduct research data and who pays for it?
In most cases, simple methods such as palpation and stool analysis are performed by a family doctor, gynecologist or urologist as part of an early cancer diagnostics program. To conduct a colonoscopy, on the contrary, it is very important to contact an experienced specialist in the field of gastrointestinal diseases (gastroenterologist). Colonoscopy can be performed in gastroenterological practice or in the outpatient department of a hospital. At the same time, the success of the research is influenced by the professionalism and experience of the doctor, as well as the quality of the tools for examination. The health insurance funds in the system of statutory health insurance cover the cost of conducting one analysis for hidden blood per year (immunochemical analysis for hidden blood) for patients older than 50 years. Since October 2002, as an alternative to cash, they pay for one preventive colonoscopy for patients over 55 years old, as well as another colonoscopy in 10 years.