Colon cancer: Causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

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Cancer of the large intestine or rectum is known as colon cancer. Earlier this week, Robin Gibbs, a member of one of the greatest bands in the 70s, Bee Gess, lost his battle with colon cancer.

[caption id="attachment_6883" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="A high-fat diet can put you at risk of colon cancer"]colon cancer[/caption]

What is colon cancer? 

Cancer of the large intestine or rectum is referred to as colon cancer.

Causes of colon cancer

The following put one at a higher risk of colon cancer:

  • Above 60 years of age.
  • High-fat diet and red meat.
  • H/O Colorectal polyps
  • Individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease
  • Presence of family history of colon cancer.
  • Genetic syndrome like familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal carcinoma are also associated with high risk of colon cancer.
  • Cigarette smoking and alcohol.
  • Obesity and lack of physical exercise are also risk factors for the development of colon cancer.

Symptoms of colon cancer

Common symptoms associated with colon cancer are:

  • Pain and tenderness in lower abdomen.
  • Blood in stool.
  • Change in bowel habit like diarrhea and constipation.
  • Weight loss without any reason.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Stages of colon cancer

Stage 0: Early cancer on the innermost layer of intestines

Stage 1: Cancer is in the inner layer of the colon.

Stage 2: Cancer has spread through the muscle wall of the colon

Stage 3: Lymph nodes affected by cancer

Stage 4: Other organs affected by cancer

Diagnosing colon cancer

  • Imaging tests like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are important diagnostic measures for colon cancer.
  • Blood tests like complete blood count and liver function tests can be done.
  • A fecal occult blood test helps detect small amounts of blood in stool.

Treatment for colon cancer

Treatment depends on the stage of cancer, age of individual and presence of other associated risk factors.

1)  Surgery – Surgery to remove cancer cells is an option to treat colon carcinoma. Stage 0 colon cancer is treated by removing cancer cells during colonoscopy. Colon resection, which is removal of a part of the colon that is cancerous is done for stage 1, 2 and 3 of colon cancer.

2) Chemotherapy – Stage 3 colon cancer is treated with chemotherapy for 6-8 months. For improving the survival rate and treating the symptoms, chemotherapy is given for stage 4 cases of colon cancer.

3) Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy along with chemotherapy is given for treating patients with stage 3 colon cancer.

Prognosis for colon cancer 

Good prognosis is seen in early cases of colon cancer. Colon cancer is usually treatable if diagnosed early. Stages 0, 1, 2, 3 are potentially curable. Stage 4 cancer is not curable in most cases.

Complications seen in colon cancer 

  • Blockage of colon
  • Recurrence of cancer
  • Spread of cancer to other body parts

 Colon cancer prevention 

  • Individuals in the age group of 50 and above should undergo colon cancer screening.
  • Colorectal polyps should be treated adequately and should be removed.
  • Changing lifestyle by inclusion of diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and avoidance of red meat help prevent colon cancer
  • Physical activity can moderately reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Vitamin D intake is associated with low risk of colon cancer.

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