About Colon cancer
The colon, or the large intestine, is the final part of the digestive tract. It is a long tube connecting the small intestine with the rectum. The food you ingest travels through the other organs of the gastrointestinal tract and reaches the large intestine. Before reaching the colon, the food breaks down and important vitamins and nutrients are absorbed.
The leftover segments of the food (usually in a liquid state) move into the colon where the water in these segments is absorbed. Furthermore, the remaining material is broken down by the bacteria in the colon which then moves into the rectum.
Colon cancer is the type of cancer that usually begins in the large intestine or the colon. If cancer occurs both in the colon and rectum, it is collectively known as colorectal cancer.
Colon cancer symptoms
Colon cancer symptoms usually begin when the small polyps begin to grow in the colon. There are several different types of colon cancer symptoms including:
- Continuous changes in the bowel habits (Diarrhea or constipation)
- Changes in the consistency of the stool
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood in the stool
- Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
- A feeling that the bowel has not emptied fully
- Weight loss without trying
In most people, the signs and symptoms vary depending on the exact location and size of cancer.
Colon cancer causes
Mainly, colon cancer develops as a result of unexplained DNA mutations in the healthy tissues of the colon. It occurs when the cells in the colon begin to divide and multiply abnormally.
Initially, colon cancer develops as small, non-cancerous growths of cells inside the colon. These clumps of cells are known as polyps. As the disease advances, these colon polyps become malignant leading to colon cancer.
Colon cancer usually occurs in older age, however, it can develop at any time. Other common risk factors include:
- History of colorectal polyps
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Genetic conditions
- Family history of colon cancer
- Low-fibre, high-fat diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Heavy drinking
Colon cancer diagnosis
Colon cancer is usually diagnosed when a person presents with the above-given signs and symptoms. It may also be done when a person has a higher risk for the development of colon cancer. Common tests and procedures done for colon cancer diagnosis include:
- CT scans
- Blood tests
Additional tests may be recommended to help determine the extent or stage of colon cancer.
Colon cancer treatment
The treatment of colon cancer is dependent on the stage, size and precise location of cancer as well as the patient’s overall health and age. The following treatment measures are utilised for colon cancer management:
- Colonoscopy to remove polyps
- Endoscopic mucosal resection for larger polyps
- Laparoscopic surgery
- Partial colectomy
- Surgery to create ostomy pouch
- Lymph node removal
- Surgery to remove blockages
- Targeted drug therapy
Early warning signs of colon cancer include bleeding from the rectum, blood in the stool, unintended weight loss, fatigue and discomfort in the stomach.
Colon cancer, if left untreated, can cause a range of complications. It does not go away on its own. However, colon cancer can be effectively treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
You can expect to experience some levels of pain in the abdomen, especially the lower abdominal region.