Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last 6 inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers. About 112,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer annually, and about 41,000 new cases of rectal cancer are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers…
- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than a couple of weeks
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- Abdominal pain with a bowel movement
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss…
In general, cancer occurs when healthy cells become altered. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But sometimes this growth gets out of control â€” cells continue dividing even when new cells aren’t needed. In the colon and rectum, this exaggerated growth may cause precancerous cells to form in the lining of your intestine…
Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include : -
Age : – About 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50. Colon cancer can occur in younger people, but it occurs much less frequently.
A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps : – If you’ve already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
Inflammatory intestinal conditions : – Long-standing inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
Inherited disorders that affect the colon : – Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer. These syndromes cause only about 5 percent of all colon cancers. One genetic syndrome called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a rare disorder that causes you to develop thousands of polyps in the lining of your colon and rectum.
& many more…
When to seek medical advice
If you notice any symptoms of colon cancer, such as blood in your stool or a persistent change in bowel habits, see your doctor as soon as possible. Keep in mind that colorectal cancer can occur in younger as well as older people. If you’re at high risk, don’t wait until symptoms appear. See your doctor for regular screenings.
Talk to your doctor about when you should begin screening for colon cancer. Guidelines generally recommend colon cancer screenings begin at age 50. Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier screening if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.
Tests and diagnosis
Most colon cancers develop from adenomatous polyps. Screening can detect polyps before they become cancerous. Screening may also detect colon cancer in its early stages when there is a good chance for cure.
You may be embarrassed by the screening procedures, worried about discomfort or afraid of the results. Discuss your screening options and your concerns with your doctor. Most procedures are only moderately uncomfortable, and working with a doctor you like and trust can help ease your embarrassment…
If your doctor suspects you may have colon cancer based on your signs and symptoms, he or she may recommend colonoscopy to look for colon cancer. Colonoscopy allows your doctor to look for polyps or unusual areas in your colon. Your doctor can also remove a sample of tissue from your colon to look for cancer cells. In some cases, barium enema or flexible sigmoidoscopy may be used to diagnose colon cancer.
Treatments and drugs
The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend largely on the stage of your cancer. The three primary treatment options are: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Surgery (colectomy) is the main treatment for colorectal cancer. How much of your colon is removed and whether other therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy, are an option for you depend on the location of your cancer, how far cancer has penetrated into the wall of your bowel, and whether it has spread to your lymph nodes or other parts of your body…
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