Colon cancer: Detectable, preventable


Posted at Mar 24 2017 09:43 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2017 12:18 AM

The incidence of colon cancer among young and middle-aged people is rising, according to reports, and doctors are urging people to get checked early to detect possible development of the deadly disease.

Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at St. Luke's Medical Center, explained that polyps, tissues growing in the wall of the colon that can lead to cancer, arise from the secrum, the whole length of the colon, and the rectum.

She explained that carcinogens from food, abandoned bacteria, or microbes from waste, can come in contact with the wall of the colon and cause polyps to develop.

Cervantes noted that in 2012, half of the 8,000 Filipinos diagnosed with colon cancer died.

Luckily, however, colon cancer can be prevented because these polyps can be detected through a colonoscopy and removed consequently.

According to Cervantes, if the polyp is less than 5mm and is sighted on the left, it is diagnosed to be "hyperplastic polyp or inflammatory polyp" and need not be removed.

"However, bigger size than that and more on the right side of the colon, they have the tendency to develop through time to colon cancer. That one, we have to remove right then and there," she said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

She added, doctors do not remove the polyp if it is bigger than 1cm or if there is a risk of perforation, damage or tear in the colonic wall that would predispose the patient to develop infection.

In these cases, they ask the patient instead to come back for therapeutic colonoscopy where they will be removing the bigger polyps. 


Cervantes said, per literature, everyone at the age of 50 and above should undergo colonoscopy, but she warned that their recent study found that in 26-27% of their recent cases, pre-malignant polyps are seen in people younger than that age.

She also urged people with family history of colon cancer be screened at 40.

People need not get colonoscopy annually, according to Cervantes.

"If you don’t have family history and the baseline colonoscopy is normal—meaning no polyps—then you can have your next colonoscopy after five years," she said.

"However, if during colonoscopy there are pre-malignant polyps, you are 50 years old, you have family history of colon cancer, then it becomes two to three years depending on the characteristic of the polyp," she added.

PhilHealth now offers deduction for colonoscopy procedures even before cancer detection, according to Cervantes.

St. Luke's Bonifacio Global City is equipped with hi-definition colonoscopes, which are only available in Japan, that can detect even flat polyps.

Cervantes insists, getting screened is worth it, no matter the price.

"The peace of mind it will give you after the colonoscopy that you are not at risk of colon cancer is more than all the sacrifices that you will have, including the price," she said.