Diverticulitis & Colon Cancer. Part 2

by on Mar.07, 2012, under Cancer

People who’ve experienced one episode of diverticulitis face a 30 percent risk of future episodes. Generally, after two episodes of diverticulitis, doctors recommend patients undergo surgery to remove the affected segment of colon.

Diverticulitis is very uncommon in people under age 40, partly because so few people in that age group have diverticula. Early studies found a higher risk of complications, such as perforation and abscess, in this age group. However, more recent studies have not confirmed this finding. Thus, a lot of controversy exists regarding the surgical recommendations in this age group.

Some doctors advise people under 40 to undergo surgery after one episode of diverticulitis because they think younger patients face a greater risk of having another attack than do older ones. Still, other doctors believe the risk or recurrence is no higher among younger patients, and prefer to wait for the second attack before recommending surgery. Keep in mind that the complications of such surgery are much less when done on an elective basis rather than in an emergency setting.

With regard to cancer, there’s no evidence that diverticulosis increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the signs of colon cancer are often same to those of diverticulitis. This is most often seen with cancers that obstruct the colon, usually on the left side. Diverticulitis also usually occurs in the left side of the colon. The appearance of both conditions may look identical on CT scans that are often used to make the diagnosis of diverticulitis. Thus, every person with a suspected case of diverticulitis should also have a colonoscopy. If no cancer is found, the patient faces no greater risk of colon cancer than other people and can undergo usual screening beginning at age 50. That said, you may still have other risk factors that put you at higher risk for colon cancer, such as a family member with colon polyps or colon cancer, which would necessitate screening before age 50.

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