Feature, Health & Wellness

Essentials to Identifying Colon Cancer

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. We want to take a look at what this disease is exactly, how to prevent it and or treat this disease.

Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is the lower part of the body’s digestive system. The colon absorbs water and nutrients from the food and stores waste matter. Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp, which may form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Some polyps become cancer over time. Finding and removing polyps can prevent colorectal cancer.

Diagram from Colon Cancer Alliance

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. Some signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks.
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

The good news is when discovered early, colon cancer is highly treatable. Even if it spreads into nearby lymph nodes, surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy is highly effective. According to Colon Cancer Alliance, in the most difficult cases — when the cancer has spread to the liver, lungs or other sites — treatment can help make surgery an option for many, as well as prolonging and adding to one’s quality of life.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet may be protective factors for some types of cancer. Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may lower your risk, but it does not mean that you will not get cancer.
Different ways to prevent cancer are being studied, including:

  • Changing lifestyle or eating habits.
  • Avoiding things known to cause cancer.
  • Taking medicines to treat a precancerous condition or to keep cancer from starting.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, and should be taking seriously. Be sure to get checked regularly, especially as you get older. Some great resources on the subject are listed below.

Cancer.gov
Colon Cancer Alliance
The Mayo Clinic

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