Everything You Need to Know About Colon Cancer
According to cancer.org, aside from skin cancer, colorectal cancer ranks as the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States. Further, the American Cancer Society reports that there were over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer in 2019, which is in addition to over 44,000 new cases involving rectal cancer.
Although no one is impervious to either of these cancers, the survival rate is reasonably good as long as they are detected early. For example, the 5-year survival rate for colon cancer is 14 percent, 67 percent for rectal cancer. It is also important to note that the survival rate cancer diagnosed at a localized stage is even higher, typically in the neighborhood of 89 percent or better. In this article, we will take a closer at the symptoms of colon cancer and treatments that are available.
What is Colon Cancer?
Also referred to as colon cancer, colorectal cancer is cancer that impacts the large intestine, otherwise known as the final part of the digestive tract. In most cases, colorectal cancer starts off as adenomatous polyps. These polyps, initially, are benign; however, over time they become cancerous cells that attack the body. In the early stages, these polyps tend to be small and are usually asymptomatic. Therefore, those who have developed this condition may not be aware of the problem until the polyps have become cancerous and symptoms become apparent. The best way to detect polyps and any other early signs of colorectal cancer is to undergo regular screening tests, which will enable physicians to identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Once polyps have morphed into cancerous cells, most people will begin to experience a variety of symptoms including:
- Feelings of fullness in bowels
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Changes in bowel habits
- Bloody stool or rectal bleeding
- Chronic abdominal discomfort
Colon Cancer Causes
Similar to many other forms of cancer, the exact cause of colorectal cancer is not exactly clear; however, most physicians agree that the disease occurs whenever otherwise healthy cells develop errors in their DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which is the hereditary material found in all humans and most organisms. To further illustrate this point, healthy cells grow and bifurcate to help keep the body functioning properly. However, when the DNA in these cells become either damaged or altered, they not only become cancerous but also continue to divide and form tumors. As colorectal cancer advances, it will begin to destroy healthy nearby by tissue before metastasizing and ultimately affecting other areas of the body.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
While the exact etiology of colorectal cancer is unclear, certain things can increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease including
- Age – The probability of developing colorectal cancer increases significantly with age. Studies show that most newly diagnosed colorectal cancer cases are among individuals who are 50 years old and over.
- Intestinal inflammation – Studies show that individuals who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or any other inflammatory diseases affecting the colon are twice as likely to develop colon cancer.
- Ethnicity – While anyone can be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the disease is exceedingly common amongst African-Americans, according to the American Association for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
- Genetics – If you have a family history of rectal or colorectal cancer, your chances of being diagnosed with either disease will increase considerably.
- Radiation therapy – Although radiation is an effective way to treat cancer, the treatments can also trigger the disease, especially if you have undergone previous radiation treatments that were directed at the abdomen.
- Lifestyle – There are several lifestyle factors that can contribute to colorectal cancer including excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and lack of exercise.
How To Minimize Your Risk for Colon Cancer
- Clean eating – A diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides you with an ample amount of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to help keep cancer at bay.
- Avoid leading a sedentary lifestyle – One of the biggest contributors to colorectal cancer is obesity. The best way to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing the disease is by getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day.
- Limit alcohol consumption – Although there are some health benefits that come with consuming alcohol, excessive drinking can increase not only your risk for colorectal cancer but also cirrhosis of the liver. Ideally, you should limit the amount of alcohol you consume to no more than one or two drinks per day.
- Smoking – If you are a smoker, you now have one more reason to consider quitting as multiple studies have shown a strong correlation between smoking and an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Colon Cancer Symptoms & Causes - Mayo Clinic
- Colorectal Cancer Symptoms - Cancer Treatment Centers of America
- Colorectal (Colon) Cancer - Healthline
- Symptoms of Colon Cancer in Women - Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
- Colorectal Symptoms - Fight Colorectal Cancer
This article has not been paid for by any advertiser. This content is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or analysis.