In the lower part of the colon lies the large intestine. This form of cancer is an overgrowth of cells that appears in that area of the intestines. It will usually start small, as a benign cluster of cells known as adenomatous polyps. These polyps can eventually manifest into colon cancer. This cancer affects over a hundred thousand people each year. In the beginning, when they are small in size, the polyps will exhibit very few symptoms, and possibly have no symptoms at all. Using a routine screenings these polyps may be caught early, before it becomes cancerous.
The symptoms of colon cancer cause significant changes that alert you to seeking medical attention. The most common signs of the form of this cancer are diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramping, fatigue, weight loss, and/or rectal bleeding. Although blood in the stool itself can be a cause of concern for cancer, this can be related to other conditions or even triggered by the foods that we ingest. Supplemental iron and medications used to calm diarrhea can also cause blood in the stool.
Whenever there is a change in the way cells grow and multiply, cancer is suspected. Cancer cells will grow erratically and divide more frequently than normal cells, causing a tumor growth in the area.
Although anyone can suffer from this cancer, the likelihood of experiencing it is increased in individuals who are aged 50 and older. Other risk factors of contracting colon cancer are genetics, other conditions of the intestine, diet, being overweight, smoking, a family history of colon cancer, alcohol consumption, inactivity, diabetes, radiation, and growth hormone disturbances.
If you notice some of the symptoms described above it is necessary to get a screening from your primary care physician as early as possible. The earlier that colon cancer is detected the higher the potential for successful treatment. If your doctor does not recommend it, ask to be screened when you are 50 years of age. If there is a family history of colon cancer you can ask to be screened earlier than that or more frequently than the general public.
Initially your physician will do a screening using a stool sample and then move on to further testing if it the initial screening indicates that there may be blood in the stool. There are six stages of colon cancer, 0-IV. Recurrent cancer is also a possibility. Treatment for this form of cancer will include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and/or medications.
The best means of preventing colon cancer are through routine screenings, limiting fat, exercising regularly, and increasing the fiber in your diet by eating lots of fruits and vegetable. Additionally, you should stop smoking, and limit your alcohol intake.
Include routine colon screenings in your healthcare each year after the age of 50 and before that if you have a family history of colon cancer. With new advancements in diagnosis and treatment, the success rates of treating colon cancer are increasing. And, as with most medical conditions, the earlier the condition is diagnosed the better the potential for finding a successful treatment protocol.
Credit: J Russell Hart