Some Facts on the
early Detection of Cancer of the Bowel
of the large intestine and rectum, known as ColoRectal Cancer (CRC), is the
most frequent cancer of the digestive system in Eastern Europe and in North
America, and here in Argentina it was estimated that it was second only to
breast cancer, and more frequent than lung cancer, with approximately 10.300 new
cases in the year 2000.
numbers have determined that it is good medical practice, not only to
investigate those persons who have symptoms, but also to screen healthy adults
over the age of 50, and over 40 for all who have had close relatives who had
cancer or polyps of the bowel.
screening method is infallible, though colonoscopy has the highest chance of
search for minute microscopic quantities of blood in the stools can be
done. If negative, it has to be repeated systematically, and if positive,
a colonoscopy must be performed.
old method is looking into the last part of the intestine, what is known
as fiberoptic rectosigmoidoscopy, the problem being that only the left
side of the bowel is seen.
x-ray of the bowel, called barium enema, is not routinely used as a
screening method, but it may be used if the colonoscopy has not reached
far enough into the right side of the bowel.
same made be said of a new technique developed with the appearance of very
fast rotating tomographs, which is known as ‘virtual colonoscopy’.
Colonoscopy requires adequate preparation so that the specialist can have
a good look into the bowel. It is
performed under light general anaesthesia by specially trained doctors,
who can also remove small polyps or adenomas, which are then analyzed by
the pathologist, and thus very early lesions are identified. If a tumour
is seen, a small part is removed (biopsied) for its correct
identification. The possible complications of this procedure are seldom
seen, mainly bleeding and perforation, and the specialists are ever alert
to treat these complications immediately.
the colonoscopy was normal, most experts agree that it should be repeated
10 years later. If polyps have been
removed, or if there is a family history of cancer of the bowel, the
specialist will determine according to each case, how frequently it should
It is also useful to know what
symptoms might be related to the unsuspected presence of CRC: the presence of
blood in the bowel movement, a change in the daily rhythm of these, a slow
onset of anaemia with no other known cause, or a gradual loss of weight. If any
of these are present, you should consult your physician. Unfortunately, sometimes the first symptom is
the complete blockage of the intestine, which constitutes a medical emergency,
and needs immediate Hospital treatment.
The British Hospital has just
finished refurbishing an area in the Out Patient Department, where the
Gastroenterology Service led by Dr. Luis Colombato, and the Proctology Service led by
Dr. Mario Salomón,
will be performing upper and lower endoscopic gastrointestinal studies. There
are 4 separate small rooms for post anaesthetic recovery, supervised by