Colon cancer generally starts with the appearance of benign polyps within the colon, that when left untreated evolve into malignant forms of cancer. Because color cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States today, awareness efforts have increased, and there is a large amount of information available for anyone who wants or needs to learn more about the disease.
The colon is one portion of the large intestine, the beginning six feet. When polyps within the color begin to develop, they attack the walls of the colon, and eventually grow to be very large. About 25% of Americans will develop cancer polyps, and only a very small percentage of the polyps will ever become malignant.
Rectal bleeding is a symptom that is almost always common in colon cancer patients, as are unexpected weight loss, constipation and abdominal pain. In extreme cases, constipation and pain will be extremely severe. In less severe cases, the symptoms may appear to actually indicate other conditions which can make the diagnosis more difficult for the medical team. Routine physical exams will help to eliminate the chance of you developing colon cancer. It will also assist with early detection when cancer is present.
Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease are at an increased risk for developing colon cancer, and should plan to schedule more frequent check-ups with their doctor. Other risk factors include high consumption of red meat products, diets low in fiber and smoking. Anyone who has a higher risk for colon cancer needs to stay aware of their body.
The last ten inches of the colon are known as the rectum. Some types of colon cancer will affect the lining of the rectum. When this type of cancer is found, there is an extremely high likelihood that the cancer will invade tissues surrounding the rectum and spread to other areas of the body. About 45% of rectal cancer patients are fortunate enough to beat the cancer – although in many cases when left untreated it will prove fatal for the diagnosed patient.
Men are more susceptible to all types of colon cancer than women, although everyone needs to be checked for the disease throughout their adult life. Cutting down on alcohol consumption, smoking and red meat and maintaining a healthy diet high in fiber are good ways to reduce the chance of developing colon cancer.
Symptoms that differ for rectal cancer may include pain in the buttocks and extreme changes in bowel habits.
Treatment for colon cancer generally includes a combination of surgical removal of the affected area, radiation to slow the growth of the tumors, and chemotherapy to eliminate the cancerous cells.