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Colon cancer is the accumulation of cancer cells in the lower part of the large intestine. These tumors typically begin as small benign growths referred to as polyps that turn into malignant tumors over time.
Stages of Colon Cancer
When a patient is diagnosed with colon cancer, they will be diagnosed with a stage of the disease, depending on it advancement. Colon Cancer is broken up into stages Tis to T4b.
- Tis -In this stage, cancer cells are only found in the top layers on lining in the colon.
- T1 –At this stage, the cancer cells have begun to spread to the tissue below the lining of the colon.
- T2 – During stage T2, the cancer cells have developed into the deeper tissue that is involved in pushing along waste during the digestive process.
- T3 – At T3 the cancer has spread to the connective tissue that connects the colon to other parts of the body, as well as permeating into some of the other surrounding tissues.
- T4a – At this point the cancer cells have grown throughout all parts of the colon.
- T4b – At this final stage the cancer cells have spread past the colon into other parts of the body.
What are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Symptoms of colon cancer can come on suddenly or develop gradually over time. Often times symptoms of colon cancer are mistaken for gastrointestinal issues or discomfort. Some symptoms of colon cancer include,
- Blood in the stool
- Unintentional weight loss
- Abnormal changes in your bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a month
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Fullness in bowel even after going to the bathroom.
Risks for Colon Cancer
While there is no specific cause for every case of colon cancer there are risks that may make you more likely to develop colon cancer.
History of Polyps
While many times polyps are found and easily removed, repeated development of polyps is linked to an increase in colon cancer.
Low Fiber Diet
Low fiber and high fat diets have been linked to an increased chance for developing polyps and colon cancer.
Those with a BMI in the obesity level have an increased risk of getting colon cancer as well as an increased risk of suffering more complications from it.
Inflammatory Gastrointestinal Problems
Chronic disease of the gastrointestinal track, including colitis and Crohns disease, can increase the risk of development of colon cancer.
Most colon cancer patients are 50 years of age or older.
A family history of colon cancer increases your chance of developing the disease as well. There are also genetically passed conditions that can greatly increase your risk for colon cancer including,
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, otherwise known as lynch syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis, which leads to an increase of the development of polyps in the colon.
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
Diagnosis of colon cancer is either done through routine screenings that are part of annual physicals or testing when gastrointestinal problems are present. To diagnose colon cancer patients will,
- Receive blood tests to check for cancer markers
- Undergo a colonoscopy which involves a camera scope of the patient’s rectum, colon and intestinal track.
Treatment options for colon cancer are typically determined based on the stage of cancer the patient is in. Treatment options can include,
- Polyp removal during colonoscopy
- Partial colectomy
- Removal of lymph nodes
- Colon resection
- Targeted drug therapies
- Radiation treatment
When it comes to treating colon cancer, routine wellness screenings are important as early diagnosis will lead to the best prognosis.