Cancer of the Colon
The colon is where the body stores waste material and is part of the digestive system. It can also be known as the large intestine.
Colon cancer and rectal cancer are also sometimes known as colorectal cancer. They can invade other organs and tissues as well as spread to other parts of the body.
As a rule, early stages of colon cancer do not cause any symptoms. Change in bowel habit, constipation and diarrhoea, the need to empty the bowels more frequently or less frequently than normal, rectal bleeding, on tissue when wiping or mixed with faeces, abdominal pain, anaemia caused by loss of blood, weakness, and fatigue are the common symptoms.
If the tumour blocks the colon, the patient can experience waves of pain in the lower abdomen, inability to pass faeces, acute pain and vomiting.
Diarrhoea lasting for more than 3 weeks, can be a sign of colon cancer and requires urgent medical attention.
In later stages of bowel cancer, loss of appetite and weight loss may occur.
Growths that form on the colon, bowel, anus and rectum are sometimes cancer or may be benign tumours called polyps. Polyps are removed during a surgical procedure called a colonoscopy, they are not considered to be a major risk to your health unless left untreated. Most benign polyps have the risk of becoming cancer (malignant) if they are not removed.
It is thought that most cases of colon cancer will have formed and developed from untreated polyps.
Some factors increase an individuals chance to develop colorectal cancer. Rectal cancer is thought to be a combination of genetics and other environmental factors. Obviously we cannot change genetics but environmental factors like diet and excercise are within our control
Diets high in red meat and low in fruit and vegatables is thought to slow bowels, are associated with rectal cancer. Slow bowels allows toxic substances to stay in contact with the rectal lining for longer. Therefore anything that speeds up the bowels, such as roughage (fibre) may prevent rectal cancer.
The risk of developing rectal cancer increases with age, most common in patients aged 60 plus, although it can occur in young people too.
Polyps of the colon, are a risk factor for colon cancer. The removal of polyps during a colonoscopy reduces the risk of colon cancer.
Individuals who have previously been diagnosed and treated for colon cancer are at risk for developing colon cancer in the future. Women who have had cancer of the ovary, uterus, or breast are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Family history of colon cancer, especially in a close relative before the age of 55 or multiple relatives.
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) carries a near 100% risk of developing colorectal cancer by the age of 40 if untreated.
Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch syndrome
Smokers are more likely to die of colorectal cancer than non-smokers.
People who are physically active are at lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Exposure to some viruses (such as particular strains of human papilloma virus) may be associated with colorectal cancer.
Low levels of selenium
Inflammatory bowel disease About 1% of colorectal cancer patients have a history of chronic ulcerative colitis. Patients with colorectal Crohn's disease have a more than average risk of colorectal cancer, but less than that of patients with ulcerative colitis.
Drinking, especially heavily, may be a risk factor.
Most colon cancer needs an operation to remove the tumour, other treatments can include, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, either separately or together (chemo-radiation)
Survival rates are improving all the time.
Bowel cancers are easy to be detected in early stages if the individual regularly undergoes screening, usually offered in the UK to the over 60's, this form of cancer is slow to develop. It takes around 10 years for an adenoma to become cancerous, turn into a tumour and affect the deeper tissues of the large intestine.
Even if the person does not fall into categories of increased risk to get bowel cancer they should not ignore persistent symptoms and should seek medical advice within two months of the symptoms occurring.
But this type of cancer is most treatable when caught in its earliest stages, if in doubt then get checked out!