Colon Cancer Risks, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer sometimes called colorectal cancer is cancer that begins as small benign clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. With time, these polyps become cancer. Colon cancer is Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, drug treatments, and targeted therapy are used to treat colon cancer.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer

Symptoms may vary widely with age and other factors. Many people experience no signs of cancer when it is in its early stage. However major signs & symptoms of colorectal cancer may include the following:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Change in the consistency of stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty
  • Blood in your stool
  • Persistent change in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding

Do symptoms of colon cancer come on suddenly?

  1. Colon cancer may have no symptoms till cancer grows to a severe extent. However, if symptoms occur, they may be the following:
  2. Bleeding from the rectum,
  3. Sudden change in the bowel movement,
  4. Blood in the stool,
  5. Blockage of the colon with the growth of tumors

Signs of end-stage colon cancer

  1. Loss of appetite,
  2. Fatigue,
  3. Fever,
  4. Feeling full early

Cause of colon cancer

The real cause of colon cancer is not certain. Generally, healthy cells of the colon experience a change in their DNA. Thus this mutation in the healthy cells makes cells divide in an unchecked manner even when new cells are not needed. Accumulation of these cells forms a tumor. With time, cancer cells grow and invade nearby tissues and thus spread to the other parts of the body. Does sugar cause colon cancer?

It is thought that high levels of glucose, insulin, and triglycerides increase the risks of colon cancer. Thus it is necessary to avoid diets that are high in sugars.

Colon Cancer Survival Rates

  • Stage I colon cancers have a survival rate of 80% to 95%.
  • Stage II tumors have survival rates ranging from 55% to 80%.
  • Stage III colon cancer has about a 40% chance of cure.
  • Stage IV colon cancer tumor has only a 10 percent survival rate.

All colorectal polyps do not convert into cancer. People may inherit diseases in which the risks of polyps becoming cancer may be high. The five-year survival rate for stage-4 colon cancer is 14%. That means if 100 people are diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, then 14 percent of them can live five years. But that are no exact figures as your doctor can judge your condition.

What is the reason for colon cancer?

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, but certain risk factors are associated with the disease are:

  1. Alcohol,
  2. Tobacco smoking,
  3. Unhealthy diet,
  4. Hereditary syndromes,
  5. Family history of colorectal cancer

How does colon cancer start? Where is the first place where colon cancer spreads?

Although all polyps do not convert into cancer all cancerous growth starts from here. However, people may also inherit diseases where the chance of developing colorectal cancer increases to a considerable extent. Colorectal cancer may also develop from areas of abnormal cells or tissues in the lining of the rectum or colon.

Stage IV colon cancers may spread from the colon to distant organs. Colon cancer mostly spreads to the liver. It can also apply to the lungs, brain, lymph nodes, or peritoneum’s abdominal cavity.

Risk Factors of colon cancer

The following factors may increase the risks of colorectal cancer:

  1. Alcohol and smoking,
  2. African-American people have a higher risk of cancer of colon than any other race.
  3. Adenomatous polyposis (FAP),
  4. Crohn’s disease,
  5. Diabetes,
  6. Family history of colon cancer,
  7. Inherited syndromes,
  8. Inflammatory intestinal conditions,
  9. Intake of Low fiber and High fat diet,
  10. Inactive behavior,
  11. Obesity,
  12. Lynch syndrome,
  13. Old age (>50 Years old),
  14. Ulcerative colitis,
  15. A western diet that includes fast foods and fried foods,
  16. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers also increases the risk of this type of cancer.

What does a colon spasm look like?

Signs and symptoms of colon spasm symptoms can vary from person to person however some notable signs are described below:

  1. Sudden abdominal pain,
  2. Pain in the lower abdomen,
  3. Pain on the left side of the belly,
  4. Severe pain in the abdomen

Colon cancer by age

  1. Colorectal cancer occurs usually in people over age 50.
  2. For colon cancer, the average age at the time of diagnosis for men is 68 and for women is 72.
  3. For rectal cancer, the age is 63 for both men and women.
  4. However, teenagers and adults may also be susceptible to colon cancer.

What are the tests available for colorectal cancer?

Diagnosis of Colon Cancer

While a colonoscopy may be the best option, however, there are several tests available that can be alternatives to a colonoscopy. All of these tests differ in their effectiveness in detecting colon cancer. Some tests are described below:

Fecal Occult Blood Test

FOBT is as effective as a colonoscopy but it is done every year. This test combines a blood test with the FIT to get an accurate detection of cancer of the colon.

Cologuard

Cologuard is also a stool test that can be used in place of a colonoscopy. This is more expensive than FIT and relatively new test. FIT is used every 3 years.

Stool DNA

Stool DNA is a prescribed test that can be done at home. A stool DNA test looks for blood and certain DNA in the stool sample that may indicate the presence of colorectal cancer. If cancerous cells are detected then the patient will have to endure a colonoscopy to remove the cancerous tissues.

CT Colonoscopy

In CT colonoscopy, an x-ray of the colon is taken just like the colonoscopy but in this test, there is no need to sedate the patient. During CT colonoscopy, the colon is inflated with air to provide a better view of the inside. If cancer or polyp is detected then a colonoscopy will be conducted to remove the cancerous tissues.

Sigmoidoscopy

Just like colonoscopy, it also requires cleansing of the colon beforehand. Anyhow a sigmoidoscope checks a smaller portion of the colon only.

Double-contrast barium enema

This test is used to examine the colon but it may miss small polyps as this technique is useful only in the screening of large polyps. If polyps are found, it still requires colonoscopy to remove the cancerous parts.

Fecal Immunochemical Test

FIT is a type of test in which fecal sample is collected and screened. In this procedure, a person is given a kit to collect a fecal sample at home. FIT uses antibodies to detect blood in a person’s stool that cannot be seen with the naked eye. A FIT checks for internal gastrointestinal bleeding. To reduce the chance of a false positive, a person should tell their healthcare provider about the following things:

  1. Anal fissures,
  2. Menstruation,
  3. Hemorrhoids

Detection of Colon cancer

Does colon cancer show up in blood work?

No blood test can tell you if you have colorectal cancer. However, your healthcare provider may test your blood for carcinoembryonic antigen, or CEA, or other chemicals that are sometimes produced by colorectal cancers.

Will an X-ray tell you about colon cancer?

X-rays may be taken of the entire gastrointestinal system that may help physicians to detect a tumor. An X-ray takes pictures of the inside structures of the human body. For bowel cancer, x-rays may be very helpful.

Can an ultrasound show colon cancer?

Ultrasound can detect even non-suspected colonic tumors, especially in the ascending colon. However, due to low specificity, doctors must diagnose by x-ray and/or colonoscopy. Ultrasound is not a suitable first choice to detect colorectal cancer.

Can a CT scan detect colon cancer?

Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan uses x-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the body so this can tell if colon cancer has spread into the liver or other organs.

Can MRI detect colon cancer?

MRI colonography accurately detects polyps that have the potential to become cancer. According to new research, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI is a more tolerable alternative to conventional colonoscopy in the detection of this cancer.

What is stage 3 colon cancer?

Stage 3 cancer is a stage in which cancer has spread:

  1. Through the mucosa of the colon wall to the submucosa,
  2. Nearby lymph nodes,
  3. Muscle layer,
  4. Tissues nearby lymph nodes

How can I protect my colorectal health?

  1. Avoid alcohol,
  2. Do not smoke,
  3. Eat a healthy diet,
  4. Increase the intake of fruits and vegetables,
  5. Avoid fast food and fried foods,
  6. Exercise daily,
  7. Avoid bacon, pork, and other red meat,
  8. Eat whole grains,
  9. Go for Screening Tests for colon cancer.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a technique that is used to detect colon cancer by finding intestinal polyps. It checks the large intestine and colon for abnormal cells. A long tube called a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum that travels up along the length of the colon. It then transmits pictures, which are used to search for polyps. If your physician finds a polyp, he will cut it out using a small wire loop on the tube.

Why you must avoid colonoscopy?

This procedure is very beneficial but some people choose to opt-out of the procedure for the following reasons:

  1. It requires a full day of preparation for the procedure,
  2. You have to take a drink that induces diarrhea,
  3. This procedure sometimes involves enema to clean the colon,
  4. It also can cause the pressure of gas into the colon of the patient,
  5. High costs of colonoscopy,
  6. Discomfort during the procedure.

Benefits of a colonoscopy

Colorectal cancer is slow-growing cancer that can be treated when caught early. Colonoscopy is very effective in the early detection of colon cancer. It can find cancerous and precancerous growths in the colon in an effective way.

Colon Cancer FAQs

Can colorectal cancer develop in 2 years?

The risks of developing another colorectal cancer are about 0.3 percent per anum. Patients suffering from Crohn’s colitis or ulcerative colitis for more than eight years should have a colonoscopy every one to two years.

Does colon cancer run in families?

Due to shared environmental factors and gene mutations in the DNA, cancers can “run in the family”. Adenomatous polyps are polyps that can become cancerous. Family members who have these polyps are thought to be linked to a high risk of developing colon cancer in other family members.

Does colon cleanse work?

There is no evidence. Anyhow many believe that colon cleansing improves health by removing toxic wastes and, boosting your energy. It also enhances the human immune system.

What causes a lazy colon?

When the muscles of the colon contract slowly, the stool moves through the colon too slowly. This results in too much absorption of water in the colon.

Does colon cancer come back?

In 35% to 40% of cases, cancer may come back within 3 to 5 years after colorectal cancer surgery. If it comes back, it could be in the rectum, colon, lungs, or liver.

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