What is Colon Cancer?
What is colon cancer?
The normal function of cells in the body is to divide to replace old cells as they die. Cells become cancerous if they begin to divide uncontrollably. This uncontrolled division causes damage to adjoining cells. The out of control cells become a mass of cells and become a tumor. There are two different kinds of tumors. The first type of tumor is benign and is not life threatening. It usually does not spread. A doctor may choose to remove the benign tumor are just to leave it. There may a chance that to disturb the tumor might cause the cancer to become malignant. If tumor cells do become malignant, the tumor now is cancerous. A cancerous tumor can spread cancerous cells throughout the body if left untreated.
What Factors Contribute To Colon Cancer?
Research has shown that most western countries have a higher incidence of colon cancer than asian countries. It is believe diet plays a role in this difference in rates of colon cancer between the two areas. The diets in asian countries are typically higher in grains and vegetables compared to western diets. Western diets are higher in animal fats and fatty food in general than in asian countries. When fat enters your system it is broken down differently than grain and vegetables. When fat enters your system it is broken down differently than grain and vegetables. The breakdown of fats releases carcinogens that can cause cancerous growths. Polyps may develop in the colon which may eventually turn into cancerous tumors. Colon cancer can also be linked to ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease. The inflammatory nature of these conditions can increase the chances of the development of cancerous tumors in the colon.
Is there a genetic link?
If you have a family history of colon cancer you are more likely to develop colon cancer yourself. If your father or your mother had the disease your risk increases by about 18%. If you have a family history your chance of developing colon cancer is about 20%, or a 1 in 5 chance. If you do have a family history it’s important for you to talk with your doctor to assess your risk. Your doctor may decide to have you schedule a procedure known as a colonoscopy. This is where you are sedated and a fiberoptic scope is used to examine your colon for polyps and other abnormalities.
What Are The Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is sometimes called the silent killer because you may not notice any symptoms until the cancer has spread. Black tarry stools or blood should prompt you to immediately seek the advice of your doctor. Any prolonged changes in bowel habits or the composition of your stools that continues for a period of time are signs you should consult medical advice. Abdominal cramp, bloating or weight loss that are unusual can also be symptoms you need to discuss with your doctor.
Testing For Colon Cancer
There are two major procedures that test for colon cancer. The first of these procedures is a lower G.I. series which uses a barium. Before the procedure the patient to go on a clear liquid diet for several days to clear the colon. At the time of the procedure, the patient will be given a white chalky liquid substance that contains barium. As the liquid goes through the digestive system the barium will coat the inside of the stomach, small intestines, large intestines, colon, and rectum. A series of x-rays will be taken to check for polyps or other cancerous growths.
Another procedure to check for colon cancer is the colonoscopy. Here a doctor will insert a fiberoptic scope into your rectum to inspect the inside of your colon. The patient is usually sedated for this procedure. If polyps are found they are usually removed from your colon and sent to a pathologist. The pathologist will examine the polyps of the microscope and determine whether they are cancerous or not. These procedures can include chest x-rays, blood work, and other medical procedures that will determine if the cancer has spread to any other part of your body.
Treatments For Colon Cancer
If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, surgery is usually the best option. During the surgery, the tumor or malign polyp will be removed along with the surrounding tissue . If the cancer has spread into the rectum, the entire rectum is usually removed. If the cancer has spread to other organs within or around the colon, the five year survival rate is approximately 10%. If the cancer has not spread to other organs, most cancer patients can live ordinary lives. Eighty percent of all colon patients survive. If surgery is not an option, then chemotherapy may be used. Chemotherapy uses medicines attack cancerous cells. Also after colon cancer surgery there may be microscopic residue of cancerous cells in your colon. Chemotherapy will attack and kill any cancer cells that remain. The most uncomfortable thing about chemotherapy for most people is the side effects. Some patients lose their hair, while others will become fatigued and unable to perform many of the activities of daily living. The chemotherapy may alss cause vomiting or bowel symptoms that may include constipation or diarrhea.
If you are diagnosed with colon cancer you have a great chance of beating the disease. The survival rate is very good compared to other types of cancers. The key is to not ignore the signs and to talk to your doctor and formulate a treatment plan.