Colon cancer as the name suggests affects your colon (large intestine). Your colon is the last part of the normal digestive tract. The cancerous presence first develops as small lumps also known as polyps. The noncancerous clumps of cells develop on the inside of your colon. Without treatment, the non-cancerous clumps can become cancerous. The development of polyps can trigger a few or no signs. So, people who suffer from the risk of developing the condition must undergo regular screening. It helps detect and treat the problem as early as possible without causing severe complications. Some people can suffer from both colon and rectal cancer. The condition is referred to as colorectal cancer. Read ahead to know more about the condition and get medical assistance at the right time.
Symptoms Of Colon Cancer
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People suffering from cancer in their colon can experience several signs and symptoms. The signs that indicate the presence of the dangerous condition include:
- Blood in the stool/Rectal bleeding
- A persistent change in bowel habits (problems like constipation, diarrhea, or changes in the consistency of the stool)
- Abdominal pain or discomfort (cramps or gas formation)
- Fatigue or weakness
- A feeling of fullness (bowel does not empty)
- Unexplained weight loss
Some people may not see the symptoms during the early stages of the disease. You experience the symptoms when the disease advances. The signs vary from one person to another, depending on the cancer location and its size in the large intestine.
Causes Associated With Colon Cancer
The exact reason triggering colon cancer remains unclear. In most of the cases, people develop the condition when the healthy cells experience mutations. The mutations in the DNA can develop into cancer. The human DNA has a set of instructions that tells your cells how to function and what to do. The healthy cells grow and divide in an organized manner. So, it aids in the normal functioning of the body. The damage in the DNA of your cell can result in developing cancerous cells. It continues to divide abnormally even when new cells are not needed. The accumulation of the abnormal cells results in the formation of a tumor.
As time passes, the cancerous cells grow and invades the normal tissues. So, it destroys the healthy cells. The cancerous cells can also travel to other parts of the body. It deposits in a different area and affects the tissue (metastasis).
Risk Factors Associated With Colon Cancer
Some people are more prone to developing such a problem compared to others. The factors influencing the enhanced risk of the problem are:
While people can develop cancer in their colon at any age, it is more common among individuals above 50 years of age. But, recent studies suggest that the condition is escalating among young people (below 50 years). The specific reason for the increase remains unclear.
The people of the African-American race have more chances of developing the condition compared to others from different races.
Personal History Of Polyps
If you have a personal history of polyps (cancerous or non-cancerous) in your colon, then you have a greater risk of developing cancer in your colon in the future. The risk is also high when you develop colorectal cancer.
Inflammatory Intestinal Condition
People suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions of the intestines can develop cancer in their colon. So, people who suffer from the following need to maintain caution:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Certain gene mutations that you inherit can put you at risk of developing cancer in the colon. People with a history of the disease can face the problem. But, the doctor links only a small percentage of total cases of colon cancer to the inherited genes. The inherited form of the disease increases due to the presence of Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer) and FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis).
If you have a blood relative suffering from the condition, then you need to undergo regular screening. With a close family member facing the problem, you need to maintain caution.
A low fiber diet with high-fat content can increase the risk of colon and rectal cancer. So, people who include the Western diet with high fat and calories can suffer from the problem. People who consume processed and red meat can develop cancer in the colon.
A Sedentary Lifestyle
If you have an inactive lifestyle, then you can develop the disease. So, it is important to get regular physical activity. It reduces the risk of developing several diseases, including cancer.
People who have high blood sugar levels or suffer from insulin resistance can develop the condition in the future.
If you are overweight, then you need a working weight loss plan. Excess weight increases your risk of dying from cancer in the colon compared to people with normal weight.
People who smoke can suffer from cancer in their colon in the future. Nicotine products increase the risk of developing cancer.
Excess alcohol consumption is bad for your health. It increases your chances of developing cancer in the colon.
Patients who have undergone radiation therapy for cancer affecting the abdomen can face the risk of colon cancer.
Diagnosis For Colon Cancer
When you see the symptoms associated with the condition, you need to see a doctor. It is important that people who have a high risk of developing the disease monitor their bodies for signs. Consulting a doctor is ideal to determine the problem early and seek treatment for it without further complications. Therefore, the diagnosis options available are:
Screening For Colon Cancer
People who face high-risk of the condition should see their doctor for screening. The screening tests for healthy people with no symptoms of the problem will help detect any issue in its early stages. It can look for signs like noncancerous or cancerous polyps in the colon. Detecting the issue at its earliest stage offer a chance to cure the problem completely. It also reduces the risk of cancer advancing and causing fatal complications. So, you can save your life by detecting the problem early.
Consult your doctor about the right screening tests, including undergoing colonoscopy for screening and removal of polyps. It can prevent the problem from turning into cancer. So, you can enhance your quality and quantity of life with the screening tests.
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
If you observe the signs and symptoms associated with the cancerous presence in your colon, you need to see a doctor immediately. The doctor can suggest the following tests to make a proper diagnosis:
Using a scope, your doctor examines the inside area of the colon. The instrument uses a long, slender, and a flexible tube with a video camera attached at one end. So, the doctor can see the images of the rectum and colon using the camera in the monitor. If abnormal areas are found, then the doctor passes surgical tools to extract a sample of the affected tissue. It is sent to the lab for biopsy. The procedure is also helpful in removing small polyps.
A specific blood test cannot determine the presence of colon cancer. But, the tests can help detect your overall health. So, your doctor suggests kidney and liver function tests to check for abnormalities in the organs. The blood tests are also suggested to detect the presence of CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen). CEA levels tracked over time can indicate the presence of cancerous cells in your colon. Your doctor can suggest the test for understanding your prognosis. It is also suggested to check your response to the different treatments.
Treatment For Colon Cancer
The type of treatment you require for the condition depends on your specific needs. So, the doctor decides on the treatment based on the individual patient’s condition. The treatment mostly depends on the location of malignant cells in the colon, the stage of cancer, and your health concerns. So, the treatment options available are:
Invasive Surgery For Early Stage Of Colon Cancer
For the early stages of the cancerous presence of colon, your doctor suggests invasive procedure. The surgical option is selected for small cancer cells. You have the following options available for a minimally invasive approach to remove colon cancer:
It is the procedure to remove the cancerous polyps during a colonoscopy. It is selected when your cancer is in its initial stages. The cancerous cells are contained within polyp and localized. So, it is possible to remove the cancerous mass completely during the colonoscopy.
Endoscopic Mucosal Resection
The invasive procedure is ideal for larger polyps. The cancerous polyps get removed during colonoscopy using special tools. During the procedure, the doctor also removes a small part of the colon’ inner lining.
The cancerous polyps that are difficult to remove during colonoscopy need laparoscopic surgery. The doctor performs the minimally invasive procedure by making small incisions on the abdominal wall. The laparoscopic surgeon performs the procedure by looking at the colon on the video monitor after inserting instruments with the attached cameras. The surgeon also extracts samples from your lymph nodes in the specific area with a cancerous presence.
Treatment For More Advanced Colon Cancer
Cancer that has grown through or into the colon needs advanced treatment options. It is an advanced stage of the condition. So, you require sophisticated invasive procedures to manage the problem. The options available are:
During the procedure, the surgeon removes the specific part of the colon containing the cancerous cells. The surgeon removes the sides of normal tissue on both sides of the cancerous cell along with the part of your colon. After the removal, the surgeon reconnects the healthy part of the colon. In most cases, your surgeon opts for the laparoscopic method.
Surgery For Waste Removal
At times, surgery cannot reconnect the healthy portion of your rectum or colon. In such cases, the surgeon performs invasive surgery to create a way to remove waste from the body. The procedure known as ostomy creates an opening in the abdominal wall. The surgeon uses a portion of the healthy bowel to create it. The stool is then collected into a bag. It is fitted securely over the opening. In certain cases, the surgeon selects ostomy as a temporary option. So, it offers time for the rectum or colon to heal completely after the surgery. But, certain patients need to undergo colostomy permanently.
Lymph Node Removal
The surgeon removes the lymph nodes near the cancerous presence in your colon. Your doctor sends it to the lab for checking the presence of cancerous cells.
Treatment For Highly Advanced Colon Cancer
People suffering from an advanced case of colon cancer need an operation to relieve colon blockage or other issues. It is ideal for patients suffering from a poor health condition. The surgical procedure can improve your symptoms. The surgical procedure does not cure cancer. But, offer relief from adverse effects due to the problem. In some cases, cancer cells spread only to the lung or liver. The patients otherwise feel good. In such cases, the doctor suggests localized treatment or surgery for eliminating cancerous cells. The ideal treatment approach can make you cancer-free for a long time. The options available are:
Chemotherapy refers to the use of certain drugs to destroy cancerous cells completely. The method is usually selected after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous mass from the colon. It is usually preferred when cancer has spread to lymph nodes or it is large. The treatment kills cancer cells remaining in the body. It also reduces the risk of recurrence.
Chemotherapy is also suggested before surgery. It aids in shrinking the large mass of cancerous cells. So, it becomes easier to remove it with surgery. At times, the treatment is also opted for relieving the signs associated with cancer in the colon that become impossible to remove using surgery. It also combined with radiation therapy to see better results.
The treatment uses powerful x-rays and protons to destroy the cancerous presence in the colon. It is also helpful in shrinking the large cancerous mass before undergoing an operation for easy removal. For advanced cases where surgery is not a viable option, radiation therapy offers relief from symptoms. Combining it with chemotherapy provides better results. It is selected depending on the patient’s needs.
Targeted Drug Therapy
The treatment focuses on precise abnormalities present in cancerous cells. So, by blocking the abnormalities, drug therapy causes the cancerous cells to die. It is usually combined with chemotherapy to get good results. It is an ideal form of treatment for people suffering from an advanced case of cancer.
It is the treatment that uses your immune system to fight against cancerous cells. In normal cases, your immune system fails to attack the cancer cells as it produces protein. These protein blinds the immune system from identifying the dangerous cancer cells. Immunotherapy can interfere with the process and allow your immune system to attack the cancer cells. The type of treatment is usually reserved for advanced cases of cancer. Before undergoing the treatment, your doctor tests if the cancer cells in your body respond to the treatment or not.
It is the supportive care used to offer relief from the immense pain and other issues associated with the disease. The care focuses on making the patient suffering from serious illness have a better quality of life. The supportive care consists of a team of expert doctors, specially trained professionals, and nurses. They work with the patient and their family to offer an extra layer of support. It usually complements the ongoing treatment. The doctor combines it with other treatments for patients to feel better. They also tend to live longer.
Preventing Colon Cancer
Is it possible to prevent colon cancer? While you cannot entirely prevent the problem, certain steps can eliminate the high risk of developing the disease. People who face a high risk of getting the disease need to follow the instructions suggested below carefully. So, the following steps can help you avoid the problem:
Screening For Cancer
People who suffer from the average risk of developing cancer in their colon need to consider screening. You can think about cancer screening around the age of fifty. Individuals with a family history of the disease need to undergo screening sooner. You have different screening options available. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. So, you need to discuss your options in detail with your doctor. Together you can decide the right options meeting your needs.
Certain changes in your lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing cancer in your colon. So, make some small yet significant changes in your everyday life. You can follow the steps suggested below:
Well Balanced Diet
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains can offer positive results. The food items contain the necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber needed to prevent diseases like cancer. Therefore, include a variety of vegetables and fruits in your diet to get the necessary vitamins as well as nutrients.
Physical exercise offers several benefits to your body. It increases the blood circulation and strengthens your immune system. Include at least thirty minutes of exercise in your daily routine. If you lead an inactive lifestyle, then start slowly. You can gradually build up to thirty minutes. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
Quit Bad Habits
Smoking and consuming excess alcohol can put your body at risk of developing several problems, including cancer. You need to stop smoking completely as it increases the risk of developing cancer. If you cannot quit it on your own, talk to your doctor. Similarly, consume alcohol in moderation. If quitting is impossible, then try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Excess body weight can put you at risk of developing several health issues. So, you need to work to maintain healthy body weight. Combine a healthy diet with exercise to lose excess body weight. You need to consult your doctor to know the healthy ways of losing excess body fat. You need to lose weight slowly. Increase the physical exercise and reduce calories in your diet to achieve weight loss goals.
Preventing Colon Cancer In People With High Risk
People who are facing a high risk of developing cancer in colon need to talk to their doctor about taking certain medications. These medications can reduce the high risk of precancerous polyps. Some evidence indicates using medications like aspirin or aspirin-like drugs can reduce the risk of developing cancer in the colon. But the duration to take the medication and the right dosage of medication to prevent the problem remains unclear. Taking aspirin regularly can put you at risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. So, discuss taking the medication and the risk associated with it to your doctor.
With early detection, you can eliminate colon cancer. You need to get treatment as early as possible to improve your prognosis. When you get treatment during the first three stages of the disease, you can extend your lifespan by at least five years. If the problem does not return, then you can remain cancer-free. Therefore, people get treatment for the condition promptly without any delay.View Article Sources