Constipation or Blood in Stool! Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (the colon) while rectal cancer is the cancer of the last tip of the colon. Cases of colon cancer usually start as small noncancerous clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps which lead to colon cancer.

Polyps are small and usually do not exhibit any symptoms, which is the reason why people should be screened regularly to prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps before they develop into colon cancer.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is characterized by:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool,
  • Weakness or fatigue,
  • Unaccountable weight loss,
  • A feeling that your bowel does not completely empty, and
  • A change in bowel habits including constipation or diarrhea or change in stool consistency.

Most people with colon cancer do not experience these symptoms during initial stages of the disease. When the symptoms occur, they vary depending on the size and location of the cancer in the large intestine.

Causes

There’s is no known cause for colon cancer. However it results from abnormal formation of calls which causes a tumor in the large intestine. The following can be classified as the causes of colon cancer:

  • Precancerous growth in the colon: cancer of the colon normally begins as clumps of polyps (precancerous cells) on the inner lining of the colon. Removing polyps before they mature to cancerous state can help prevent cancer.
  • Inherited gene mutation that raises the risk for colon cancer: a small percentage of colon cancer is associated with inherited genes. Presence of inherited genes does not guarantee colon cancer, but only increases the risk. The inherited cancer of the colon syndromes include;
  1. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP): a rare disorder that leads to development of polyps inside the colon and the rectum. People with untreated FAP are known to increase colon cancer likelihood before age 40.
  2. Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC): increases the risk of colon and other forms of cancer. People with this mutation are known to develop colon cancer before the age of 50.

Fortunately, FAP and HNPCC can be detected through genetic testing and treated where necessary.

Risk Factors

  • Old age: The risk for colon cancer increases with age. Majority of patients are older than 50 years.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions: inflammatory diseases of the colon, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, increase the risk of colon cancer.
  • A personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer: If you’ve already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
  • Family history of colon polyps or cancer: people from families with a history of the disease are at an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Individual who are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer, hence exercising may help prevent it.
  • Diabetes: if you have diabetes and insulin resistance raises the risk.
  • Low fiber, high fat diet: colon cancer is associated with low fiber diet and high fat content.

Other risk factors entail, obesity, smoking, alcohol and radiation therapy for cancer.

Test and Diagnosis

If you exhibit signs of colon cancer, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests and procedures;

  • Blood tests,
  • Using multiple CT images to create a picture of the colon,
  • Using a scope to examine the inside of the colon, and
  • Using dye and X-ray to make a picture of the colon.

Treatment

Colon ranges from stages I-IV and its treatment depends on the stage at which it is. The three basic treatments for colon cancer are:

  • Surgery,
  • Chemotherapy,
  • Radiation and
  • Targeted drug therapy.

Alternative treatments

Once diagnosed with colon cancer, a person may feel sad, distressed, loss of sleep and appetite, difficult in concentrating. Alternative treatments may offer temporal relief. They entail art therapy, dance and movement therapy, meditation, music therapy, relaxation exercises and other exercises.

Prevention

Colon cancer can be prevented.

  • One should have screening for polyps to treat them before they develop into cancer.
  • Eating healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grain
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising is also important in maintaining a healthy weight

Finally, like any other cancer form, colon cancer is agonizing and the patient requires lots of support and care. It is good to establish positive attitude in order to overcome the disease by undertaking the right treatment.

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