Colon cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon). The colon is the last portion of the digestive tract. Colon cancer normally affects elderly adults, though it can occur at any age.
It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon.
Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers.
Polyps may be small and produce few if any, symptoms.
Because of this, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.
If colon cancer grows, many treatments are available to help control it, including surgery, radiation therapy, and drug treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted treatment, and immunotherapy.
Colon cancer is also known as colorectal cancer, which is a term that combines colon cancer and rectal cancer, which starts in the rectum.
Symptoms of Colon cancer:
- Continuous change in your bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Blood in your stool or rectal bleeding
- Persistent abdominal discomforts, such as cramps, pain, or gas
- A feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
- Weakness, exhaustion, or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Lots of people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the first stages of the illness.
When symptoms appear, they will likely change, depending on cancer’s size and location on your large intestine.
When to see a doctor in colon cancer:
If you notice any persistent symptoms that make you worry, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor.
Talk with your physician about when to start colon cancer screening. Guidelines generally urge that colon cancer screenings begin around 50.
Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier screening when you have other risk factors, such as a family history of this problem.
Causes of Colon cancer:
In general, colon cancer starts when healthy cells in the colon create changes (mutations) in their DNA.
A cell’s DNA contains a set of instructions that tell a cell what to do.
Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally.
But if a cell’s DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous cells continue to divide even when new cells aren’t needed.
As the cells accumulate, they form a tumor.
With time, the cancer cells can develop to invade and destroy normal tissues nearby.
And cancerous cells can travel to other areas of the body to form deposits there (metastasis).
Doctors are not certain what causes most colon cancers.
Risk factors of Colon cancer:
Some factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:
- Older age. Colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, however, a majority of individuals with colon cancer are older than 50.
The volume of colon cancer in people younger than 50 is increasing, but doctors are not certain why.
- American-African race. African-Americans have an increased risk of colon cancer than do people of other races.
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you already had colon cancer or noncancerous colon polyps, then you have more risk of colon cancer as your age passes.
- Inflammatory intestinal condition. Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk.
Some gene mutations passed through generations of your family can boost your risk of colon cancer considerably.
- Family history of colon cancer. You’re more likely to develop colon cancer if you’ve got a blood relative who has had the problem.
If more than one relative has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is much higher.
- High-fat, low-fiber diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer might be related to a standard Western diet, which is low in fiber and high in fat and calories.
Research in this area has had mixed effects:
A number of studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who consume diets high in red meat and processed meat.
- A sedentary lifestyle. Individuals that are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer.
- People with diabetes or insulin resistance have an elevated risk of colon cancer.
- Some individuals who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and a higher risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
- Peoples who smoke may have an elevated risk of colon cancer.
- Substantial use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer.
- Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the stomach to treat previous cancers increases the risk of colon cancer.
Prevention of Colon cancer:
Screening of colon cancer:
Doctors recommend that individuals with a normal risk of colon cancer believe colon cancer screening around age 50.
But individuals with an elevated risk, like those with a family history of colorectal cancer, should consider screening earlier.
Several screening alternatives exist each with its own pros and cons. Speak about your options with your physician (doctor), and together you can decide which tests are appropriate for you.
Lifestyle changes for reducing your risk of colon cancer:
You are able to take steps to lessen your risk of colon cancer by making changes in your everyday life.
Take measures to:
- Eat many different fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which may play a part in cancer prevention.
Choose a variety of fruits and veggies so that you get an array of vitamins and nutrients.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you decide to drink alcohol, limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink per day for women and 2 for men.
- Stop smoking. Talk to your doctor about how you can quit that will work for you.
- Exercise most days of the week. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
If you have been inactive, start slowly and build up gradually to half an hour. Also, speak with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re at a wholesome weight, then work to maintain your weight by combining a healthy diet with daily exercise.
Should you need to shed weight, ask your doctor about healthy ways to achieve your goal.
Aim to shed weight slowly by increasing the amount of exercise you get and lessening the number of calories you eat.
Colon cancer prevention for people with a high danger:
Some medicines have been found to decrease the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer.
For instance, some evidence links a reduced risk of polyps and colon cancer to regular use of aspirin or aspirin-like drugs.
Taking aspirin every day has some risks, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.
These options are usually reserved for those who have a high risk of colon cancer.
There isn’t enough evidence to recommend these medications to people who have an average risk of colon cancer.
If you have an elevated risk of colon cancer, discuss your risk factors with your physician to determine whether preventive drugs are safe for you.
Screening for colon cancer:
Doctors recommend certain screening tests for healthy individuals without any symptoms or signs so as to search for signs of colon cancer or noncancerous colon polyps.
Finding colorectal cancer at its earliest stage provides the greatest chance for a cure. Screening has been shown to lower your chance of dying of colorectal cancer.
Doctors generally recommend that people with an average risk of colon cancer begin screening around age 50.
But people with an increased risk, like those having a family history of colon cancer or African heritage, should look at a screening earlier.
Many screening options exist each with its own advantages and drawbacks.
Speak about your options with your doctor, and together you can decide which tests are appropriate for you.
If a colonoscopy is used for screening, polyps can be removed during the process before they turn into cancer.
Diagnosing Colorectal cancer:
If your symptoms and signs indicate that you might have colon cancer, your doctor may recommend one or more tests and procedures,
Employing a range to inspect the inside of your colon (colonoscopy).
A colonoscopy uses a long, elastic, and slim tube attached to a video camera and monitor to view your entire colon and rectum.
If any suspicious areas are found, your doctor can pass surgical tools through the tubing to take tissue samples (biopsies) for diagnosis and also remove polyps.
No blood test can let you know if you have colon cancer.
However, your doctor may check your blood to get clues about your general health, such as liver and kidney function tests.
Your physician may also test your blood to get a chemical sometimes generated by colon cancers (carcinoembryonic antigen, or CEA).
Tracked over time, the level of CEA in your blood may help your doctor understand your prognosis and if your cancer is responding to treatment.
Determining the extent of cancer:
If you’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer, your doctor may recommend tests to find out the extent (stage) of your cancer.
Staging helps decide what treatments are appropriate for you.
Staging tests may include imaging processes such as abdominal, pelvic, and chest CT scans.
Oftentimes, the period of your cancer might not be fully determined until after colon cancer surgery.
The stages of colorectal cancer have been indicated by Roman numerals which vary from 0 to IV, together with the lowest stages indicating cancer that’s limited to the lining of the interior of the colon.
By stage IV, the cancer is deemed advanced and has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the human body.
Which remedies are most likely to help you depends upon your individual situation, including the positioning of your cancer, its point, and your other health concerns.
Treatment for Colorectal cancer usually involves surgery to remove cancer.
Other treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, may also be recommended.
Surgery for early-stage colon cancer:
If your colon cancer is very small, your doctor can recommend a minimally invasive method of surgery,
Removing polyps during a colonoscopy (polypectomy).
If your cancer is small, localized, completely contained inside a polyp and at a really early stage, your physician may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy.
Endoscopic mucosal resection.
Larger polyps may be removed during colonoscopy using special tools to remove the polyp and also a little sum of the inner lining of the colon in a procedure known as an endoscopic mucosal resection.
Minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery).
Polyps that can not be removed during a colonoscopy could be removed using laparoscopic operation.
Within this procedure, your surgeon performs the operation through several small incisions in your gut wall, integrating instruments with attached cameras that show your colon onto a video monitor.
The surgeon can also take samples from lymph nodes in the region where the cancer is located.
Surgery for more advanced colon cancer:
If cancer has become or through your colon, your surgeon may recommend:
In this process, the physician removes the component of your colon which contains cancer, together with a margin of normal tissue on either side of cancer.
Your physician is often able to reconnect the healthy parts of your colon or rectum.
This process can commonly be done by a minimally invasive strategy (laparoscopy).
Surgery to create a means for waste to leave your body.
When it is not possible to reconnect the wholesome portions of your colon or rectum, you might need an ostomy.
This involves making an opening in the wall of your stomach from a portion of the remaining bowel for the removal of stool into a bag that fits securely within the opening.
On occasion the ostomy is just temporary, allowing your colon or rectum time to heal after surgery.
Lymph node removal.
Nearby lymph nodes are usually additionally removed during colon cancer surgery and analyzed for cancer.
Surgery for innovative cancer:
When your cancer is quite complex or your overall health really poor, your physician may suggest an operation to relieve a blockage of your colon or other ailments in order to enhance your symptoms.
In specific cases where cancer has spread only to the lung or liver but your overall health is otherwise great, your doctor may recommend surgery or other localized treatments to eliminate cancer.
Chemotherapy may be used before or after this type of procedure. This strategy provides a chance to be free of cancer over the long term.
Chemotherapy for colon cancer is usually given after surgery when the cancer is larger or has spread to the lymph nodes.
In this manner, chemotherapy can kill any cancer cells that remain in the entire body and help decrease the risk of cancer recurrence.
Chemotherapy can also be used to alleviate symptoms of colon cancer which cannot be removed with surgery or which has spread to other areas of the human body.
Sometimes it’s combined with radiation therapy.
For a number of individuals with lower-level phase III Colorectal cancer, a shorter course of chemotherapy following surgery might be possible.
This approach may reduce the side effects as well as the traditional path of chemotherapy, and might be just as powerful.
Radiation therapy utilizes strong energy sources, such as X-rays and protons, to destroy cancer cells.
It may be used to shrink large cancer prior to surgery so that it may be removed more easily.
When surgery isn’t an option, radiation therapy may be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain. Occasionally radiation is combined with chemotherapy.
Targeted drug therapy:
Targeted medication treatments focus on particular abnormalities found in cancer cells.
By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can lead to cancer cells dying.
Targeted drugs are usually combined with chemotherapy. Targeted medications are typically reserved for those who have advanced colon cancer.
Immunotherapy is a drug treatment that uses your immune system to fight cancer.
Your body’s disease-fighting immune system might not assault your cancer because the cancer cells produce proteins that nourish the immune system tissues from recognizing the cells.
Immunotherapy works by interfering with this procedure.
Immunotherapy is usually earmarked for advanced colon cancer. Your doctor might have your cancer cells tested to see if they’re very likely to answer this therapy.
Supportive (palliative) care:
Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other signs of a serious illness.
Supportive Palliative care is offered by a group of physicians, nurses, and other specially trained professionals that work with you, your family, and your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.
The palliative care teams aim to enhance the quality of life for people with cancer and their families.
When palliative care is used together with all the other appropriate treatments, individuals with cancer may feel better and live longer.
Dealing and encouragement In time, individuals learn how to cope in their own unique ways.
Until you discover what works for you personally, you might try to:
Learn more about your cancer to feel comfortable making treatment decisions.
Consult your doctor to tell you that the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your treatment choices and their side effects.
The more you know, the more confident you are going to be when it comes to making decisions about your care.
Search for information on the regional library and on reliable websites.
Keep friends and family near. Keeping your intimate relationships powerful will help you deal with cancer.
Friends and family can provide the technical support you will want, such as helping take care of your house when you’re in the clinic.
And they are able to serve as emotional support when you feel overwhelmed.
Find someone to converse with. Find a good listener who is ready to hear you speak about your fantasies and fears. This might be a friend or family member.
The concern and comprehension of a counselor, medical social worker, clergy member, or cancer support group may also be useful.
Preparing for your appointment:
If your doctor suspects you might have Colorectal cancer, you’ll probably be referred to specialists who deal with colon cancer.
You may meet a number of experts, such as a:
A doctor who treats gastrointestinal diseases (gastroenterologist)
The doctor who uses medications to treat cancer (oncologist)
Doctor Who eliminates colon cancer with an operation (surgeon)
Doctor Who uses radiation to treat cancer (radiation oncologist)
Because appointments can be short, and because there’s often a great deal of ground to cover, so it is a good thought to be well-prepared.
Everything you can do:
Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions.
At the time you make the appointment, make sure you ask if there is anything you want to do beforehand, such as limit your diet plan.
Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem irrelevant to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
Write down key personal information, including any significant stresses or recent life changes.
Make a list of all medications, supplements, or vitamins that you’re taking.
Consider taking a family member or friend along.
Occasionally it can be tricky to take in all the information provided during an appointment.
Somebody who accompanies you might remember something which you missed or forgot.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Where’s my Colorectal cancer located in my colon?
What is the stage of colorectal cancer?
Could you describe my pathology report to me personally?
Could I have a copy of my pathology report?
Has my colon cancer spread to other parts of the body?
Will I need more tests?
What are the treatment choices for my colon cancer?
Will any of those treatments cure my colon cancer?
What is the possibility that my Colorectal cancer will be treated?
How much does each treatment increase my odds that my colon cancer will be treated?
What are the potential side effects of each treatment?
How will each treatment affect my everyday life?
Is there one treatment you feel is ideal for me?
What would you recommend to a relative or friend in the same situation?
How long can I choose to make my decision about therapy?
Should I seek another opinion?
Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover?
What websites would you recommend?
Do my siblings or my kids have an increased risk of colon cancer?
In addition to the questions which you’ve ready to ask your doctor, do not hesitate to ask questions during your consultation.
What to expect from your doctor:
Your doctor is very likely to ask you a number of questions. Becoming prepared to answer them may allow time to pay for other things that you want to tackle. Your doctor may ask:
When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
Have your symptoms been constant or occasional?
How severe are your symptoms?
What, if anything, seems to boost your symptoms?
What, if anything, seems to worsen your symptoms?
Can you have a family history of colorectal cancer or other cancers?
Ask your friends and loved ones for support.
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…
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