As your body ages, changes occur that put you more at risk for certain diseases. Colon cancer is one of those disease that you should be aware of as you grow older. Regular cancer screenings will prevent you from developing painful symptoms and serious health issues. Here is what you need to know about colon cancer and the detection and treatment of it.
Early Detection is Important
Colon cancer begins as small tissue growths, called polyps, in the intestinal wall. Many of these polyps stay benign and cause you no problems at all. The cells in some polyps may change into cancer cells. These polyps will then grow and spread the malignant cells throughout the large intestine and colon. If left untreated, the cancer cells can make their way to other organs in the body.
It's recommended that regular colon cancer screenings start for both men and women at 50 years old. Colonoscopies are part of this screening to allow your doctor to see the intestinal wall. They can remove any suspicious polyps before the tissue has had the chance to grow and spread. At this early stage of the cancer, you'll have no symptoms, which means you'll rely on the screening to discover any cancer present in the colon.
Symptoms of Advanced Colon Cancer
If you haven't been getting regular colon cancer screenings and have any of the following symptoms, see your doctor soon for an evaluation before the problem becomes worse and more difficult to treat.
- frequent diarrhea or constipation
- bloody stools
- abdominal pain and cramps
- sudden weight loss
Any changes in your bowel habits can be a sign of colon cancer and you should get in to see your doctor soon.
Causes of Colon Cancer
It's not known why the polyps begin to grow in the intestine and why some turn cancerous. There are several factors that increase your risk of developing colon cancer, such as:
- Family History - The presence of this cancer in your family increases your risk through heredity.
- Chronic Bowel Disease - Any type of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) increases your risk of developing colon cancer. If you have ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or other type of IBS, your doctor may suggest that you have more frequent cancer screenings.
- Dietary Impacts - A high-fat and low-fiber diet increases the risk of intestinal polyp formation.
- Diabetes - People diagnosed with insulin-resistant diabetes have an increased risk.
Treating Colon Cancer
The type of treatment depends on how advanced the malignant polyps have become.
- Polyps can be removed early, even during the colonoscopy screening, before the tissue has time to become cancerous.
- Once a polyp becomes cancerous, it must be removed along with some of the tissue surrounding it, in case the cells have begun to spread.
- When the cancer cells spread, portions of the colon can be removed to eliminate the cancer.
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended after the surgery to get rid of any cancer cells beyond the area surgically removed.
- If the cancer is very advanced and cells have begun to spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy will be used to find and eliminate those cells.
To learn more, contact a clinic like Lincoln Surgical Group PC.Share