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Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer

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Definition

Colon cancer is the growth of cancer in the large intestine. The large intestine, or colon, absorbs water and nutrients from foods. After, the colon passes the solid waste to the rectum for storage, before it is eliminated from the body.

Colon Cancer
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Causes

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.

Risk Factors

Being over 50 years old increases your chance of colon cancer. Other factors that may increase your chances of colon cancer:

  • Hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Personal history of colon or rectal cancer, or polyps
  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer, especially a parent, sibling, or child
  • Ethnicity‚ÄĒAfrican-Americans carry the highest risk of developing and dying from colon and rectal cancers
  • History of ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diets high in meat, and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Physical inactivity

Symptoms

In most cases, there are no symptoms with colon cancer. When symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the stool that is either bright red or black and tarry
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • General abdominal discomfort, such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant feeling of fatigue or tiredness

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check the rectum for lumps or abnormal areas, and recommend different tests in order to identify tumors and confirm diagnosis.

Tests used to identify potential colon cancers include:

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Barium enema
  • CT colonography

Additional tests may confirm the presence of colon cancer, determine what stage the cancer is in, and/or determine if the cancer has spread:

  • Biopsy
  • Polypectomy
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • Blood tests to look for anemia and tumor markers in the blood

The physical exam, combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the type and stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, colon cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body

Treatment

Treatment for colon cancer depends on how early it is detected, and the stage or location of the tumor.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following options:

Prevention

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