What is colon cancer?
The term cancer means uncontrolled growth of cells. When cancer forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine), it is called colon cancer. Cancer of the colon and rectum (the last part of the large intestine that connects the colon to the anus) together is called colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas that means cancers beginning in the cells that make and release the mucus and other fluids. Colorectal cancers generally begin as small growths called polyps originating from the inner lining of the large bowel. Not all polyps become cancer. Regular screening to detect polyps before they turn into colon cancer may help detect cancer at an early stage when it may be curable. Colorectal cancer is responsible for causing the third-highest number of cancer deaths in the United States.
Where is colon cancer pain felt?
Colon cancer pain is generally felt as vague abdominal pain or cramps. The exact site of the pain may vary depending upon the part of the colon involved, the size of the tumor and the extent to which it has spread in the body (metastasis). For example, when cancer spreads to the liver, pain may be felt in the upper right abdomen.
Colon or colorectal cancer may not cause any symptoms during the early stages of the disease. A person may have polyps or colon cancer but may not have any symptoms until the late stages of the disease. Most early signs of colon cancer may be mistaken for other more common diseases and vice versa. For instance, a change in bowel habits may be caused by a bowel infection or the presence of blood in the stool may be because of piles or hemorrhoids. Hence, regular screening may help detect cancer early. You must consult your health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Some of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer include
- Presence of blood in stool that may be red or dark in color
- Change in bowel habits that may alternate between constipation or diarrhea
- Aches, cramps or abdominal pain that does not go away
- Unintended or unexplained weight loss
- Bloating or gas
- Narrowing of stools (passing ribbon-like stools) that may last for several days
- Feeling week or getting tired easily
- A constant urge to have a bowel movement coupled with the feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Anemia that does not get better with supplements and diet
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
The risk factors for colon cancer include
- Age: The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age. According to CDC, more than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 50 years of age or older.
- Family history: People who have a family history (especially in parents or siblings) of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer may have a higher risk than those without a positive family history. A disease called “familial polyposis coli” and other rare diseases such as Cowden syndrome and Peutz–Jeggers syndrome may cause bowel cancer in multiple members of a family.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Being overweight or obese: Individuals who are overweight or obese may be more likely to get colorectal cancer.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet rich in processed meats, fatty or fried foods and deficient in fiber (including fruits and vegetables) may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Alcohol: The risk of colorectal cancer may be increased because of alcohol consumption.
- Tobacco: Consumption of tobacco may increase the risk of various cancers including colon cancer.
- History of other cancers: A personal history of other cancers such as cancer of the breast, uterus or ovaries may increase the risk of colon cancer.
The presence of risk factors does not mean that a person will surely get colon cancer. Similarly, the absence of any risk factors does not mean that a person will not get colon cancer. Knowing your risk factors is as important as improving your lifestyle to help reduce your cancer risk. Eating a healthy diet and giving up alcohol or tobacco consumption are two things you can do to reduce your risk. Nonmodifiable risk factors such as age and genetics can help your doctor advise appropriate screening plans for you that may help diagnose cancer in its early stages when the chances of cure are high.
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