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What Is Colon Cancer?
The colon is the last part of the digestive system where the body extracts water and salt from solid waste. Colon cancer occurs when tumorous growths develop in the colon. The growths begin as benign growths called polyps. Polyps are small clumps of cells that eventually can turn into colon tumors.
Colon cancer is more common in older adults and is the second most common cancer found in both males and females combined.
It is important to receive a colonoscopy early in your life and then as directed by your gastroenterologist.
What Are The Symptoms Of Colon Cancer?
With the right care and attention, it is our hope that you will not experience the early signs of colon cancer.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms persistently, make an appointment with your TDDC gastroenterologist today:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- A sudden change in bowel movements, including constipation, diarrhea, or a change in the consistency of your stool.
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain.
- Any of these accompanied by weakness and fatigue
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Pain during bowel movements
- Continual urges to defecate
Survival Rates For Colon Cancer
Cancer survival rates are broken into three different categories, localized, regional, and distant. Localized colon cancer is cancer that is strictly in the colon. Regional colon cancer is when the cancer spreads to the surrounding tissues and organs and distant is when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.
- Localized colon cancer- 90% 5-year survival rate
- Regional colon cancer- 71% 5-year survival rate
- Distant colon cancer- 14% 5-year survival rate
If the cancer is found early and is only manifest in a few cancerous polyps then the polyps can be removed resulting in very high survival rates.
We recommend receiving a colonoscopy when you are between the ages of 40-45 in order to find the cancer early. If colon cancer runs in your family then we suggest receiving a colonoscopy as soon as you can.
Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
Some of the factors that could put a person at higher risk for colon cancer are:
- Age- Colon cancer is primarily diagnosed in people who are older than 50, however, the rates of colon cancer in younger people have been increasing.
- Descent- People of the African-American race have an increased risk of colon cancer compared to other races.
- Family history- If you or a family member has had colon cancer or non-cancerous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions- chronic diseases including Crohn’s disease and colitis can increase your risk of colon cancer.
- “Typical Western Diet”- colon cancer has been linked with a low fiber, high fat and high-calorie diet.
What Are The Available Treatments For Colon Cancer?
Treatment for colon cancer can vary depending on the stage of the cancer. Every case is unique but the best thing you can do for colon cancer is to completely prevent it.
Colon cancer is a rare type of cancer because it is preventable. Colon cancer first manifests itself in the form of polyps. These polyps can be removed which reduces your risk of dying of cancer by 90%. Your personal risk and prevention steps can be determined at a screening with your local TDDC gastroenterologist.
Stage 0 Colon Cancer Treatment
Stage 0 colon cancer is when the colon cancer has not spread beyond the inner lining of the colon. If the growth is small enough it can be easily removed with the use of a colonoscope during a colonoscopy.
Stage I Colon Cancer Treatment
If the polyp is completely removed during a colonoscopy with no cancer cells at the edges no further treatment may be needed. If the removed polyp does have cancerous cells at the edges more surgery might be needed to clear the remaining cancerous tissue.
For cancers not in a polyp, partial colectomy may be necessary to remove the section of the colon and nearby lymph nodes that are cancerous.
Stage II Colon Cancer Treatment
Usually in stage 2 surgery is performed to remove the section of the colon or nearby lymph nodes containing cancer. Sometimes your gastroenterologist will recommend adjuvant chemotherapy (chemo after surgery) as well.
Stage III Colon Cancer Treatment
A partial colectomy followed by adjuvant chemotherapy is standard treatment for this stage of colon cancer.
Stage IV Colon Cancer Treatment
This stage of cancer typically means that the cancer has spread to other tissues or organs. Surgery may be necessary to remove parts of the cancer found in the colon and other organs as well as chemotherapy. Chemotherapy at this stage is typically administered before and after surgery.