Colon Cancer – the third most diagnosed cancer worldwide

Colon Cancer or bowel cancer is the transformation of normal colon cells into cancerous growths. Transformed cells multiply and grow rapidly. Colon cancer is also known as colorectal cancer because the growth of cancer cells in the colon usually extends to the rectum. Colorectal cancer is known to be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer world wide. This type of cancer is more prevalent in developed countries than the underdeveloped ones.

High intake of fat and carcinogen causing foods such as junk foods are one of the leading risk factors for colon cancer. Colon cancer usually develops first in the inner lining of the bowel. It can grow to the muscles of the bowel and eventually in the bowel walls if left untreated. Scientist believed that cancer begins when there are polyp growths inside the lining of the bowel. Although these polyps are benign, they will cause cancer when left inside the body. Surgery is needed to take out the benign polyps therefore decreasing the risk of colon cancer. When cancer cells multiply and grow in the colon, the normal digestive processes will not be able to function properly. As many cancer cells grow, more normal cells die.

There are many factors that increase the risk of colon cancer. Adenomatous polyps, old age, history of previous cancer, family history of colon cancer, vices like smoking, unhealthy diet such as high fat diet, lacking of exercise, inflammatory bowel disease, and alcohol are the known risk factors for colon cancer.

The symptoms of colon cancer are non specific. Most symptoms experienced by patients with this type of cancer are also known symptoms of other diseases. Since there are no symptoms particularly for colon cancer, diagnosis of the disease through different exams such as colonoscopy, rectal exam, fecal occult blood test, and sigmoidoscopy will confirm the disease.

The symptoms of colon cancer include weakness, fatigue, shortness of breathing, narrow stools, diarrhea, change in bowel habits, dark or fresh blood in the stool, incomplete feeling of defecation, cramps, weight loss abdominal pain, and bloating.

Colon cancer can be present for many years even though symptoms are not yet experienced. Symptoms will depend on the location of the tumor in the bowel. When the tumor is on the right side of the bowel, symptoms usually appear when the tumor is already large. This is because the right side of the bowel is spacious, that bowel disturbance is not experienced until it hits the bowel wall. Right side tumors cause iron deficiency anemia leading to weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath. On the other hand, the left side bowel causes partial or complete obstruction of bowel. This can cause cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, narrowed stools and blood in the stools.

Surgical removal of one’s colon or part of the colon is the main treatment of colon cancer. Little number of polyps can be removed through colonoscopy and not through invasive surgery. Chemotherapy is another treatment for colon cancer. The treatment can be used after the surgery, before the surgery or can be the main choice of therapy. Different drugs known to destroy cancer cells are administered to patients with colon cancer. Radiation therapy is commonly used. However, radiation is not recommended for colon cancer but is effective in treating rectal cancers.

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