Colon cancer is a serious disease characterized by abnormal cell growth in the colon, which creates a cancerous tumor. This kind of illness ranks third in the list of the most common forms of cancer and are most often prevalent in people over 50 years old, but can occur in patients of any age.
Cancers of the colon, or of the rectum, are highly treatable if they are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. However, many people often are not diagnosed in time as early symptoms are not always recognized and, when they are, people are somewhat hesitant to discuss the details of their symptoms with a doctor.
The symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain, bloating, or discomfort
- Bloody stool
- Long, thin stool (often described as pencil-like)
- Unintended weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in normal bowel habits (rectal bleeding, diarrhea, constipation, or feeling an inability to completely empty the bowel).
Each year nearly 150,000 new cases of this disease are reported. There is no identifiable cause for it, but the following are some of the factors that may increase the risk of its development:
- Gender (Both men and women are equally prone to developing the malady. However, men tend to develop the rectal version at slightly higher rates, while women are more prone to the colon variety)
- Age (The sickness can be developed at any age, but the chances are increased in people over the age of 50 years old.)
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol consumption
- Poor diet
- Family history
- Personal history.
People with a family history of colorectal cancer are slightly more prone to developing it. If more than one family member has been diagnosed with the problem, the risk is even higher. Also, diets high in calories and fat, and low in fiber add to an increased risk of developing the disorder. Anyone over the age of 50 should undergo regular screening for the disorder, but anyone in any of the above risk groups should begin earlier.
Screening normally consists of an annual rectal exam, including stool samples. Some exams may require a scope to be inserted into the rectum in order to view the entire bowel. If there is cause for concern or further examination of the colon’s tissue, a biopsy may be ordered for a closer analysis. If cancer is discovered, other tests, such as an ultrasound, CT scan or X-ray would be done in order to determine whether it has spread to other areas. Of particular concern is the liver as it is one of the more likely places that this dangerous disease spreads to.
Because the risk can be reduced by a high fiber diet, proper weight management (including exercise) and by not smoking, it is highly recommended that people opt for healthier lifestyles and decrease their chances of developing this type of life threatening ailment, and others, as much as possible.
Anyone who has experienced some of the previously mentioned symtoms, or who are in one of the risks groups for the disease, is advised to seek screening tests as early as possible since colorectal cancer responds very well to treatment in the earliest stages.