Each year, more than 104,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colon cancer. This disease is a form of colorectal cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. While this cancer is common, it is largely preventable. If caught early enough, colon cancer can even be cured. That’s why it’s important for both men and women to recognize the symptoms of colon cancer, which you can learn about when you search online. Some people are more at risk of developing colon cancer than others. You can start an online search to quickly find out whether you carry one of those risk factors.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Like many cancers, symptoms of colon cancer may not appear until the disease has reached later stages. It’s recommended that people get regular screenings from their doctors so the cancer is caught in earlier stages before it spreads.
Symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation;
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool;
- Feeling like the bowel doesn’t empty completely;
- Abdominal discomfort such as gas, cramps, and feeling bloated;
- Weakness or fatigue, and;
- Unexplained weight loss.
Many of these symptoms can also be an indicator of another health issue. If they persist, you’ll need to find out the reason behind your symptoms and get checked out by a doctor.
Anyone can develop colon cancer, though some people may carry a higher risk compared to others. Some risk factors can be changed and others are out of a person’s control. Both men and women are at equal risk for colon cancer, but it is more common in people aged 50 and over.
Risk factors that you cannot change include:
- Personal history of adenomatous polyps;
- History of inflammatory bowel disease;
- Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps;
- Having an inherited syndrome;
- Having type 2 diabetes, and;
- Racial and ethnic background (Black people in the U.S. have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer of all racial groups).
Some lifestyle risk factors for colon cancer are:
- Being overweight or obese;
- Not being physically active;
- Consuming diets high in red meats and processed meats;
- Smoking tobacco, and;
- Moderate to heavy alcohol use.
Keep in mind that you may be able to lower your risk for colon cancer by altering these lifestyle factors. For example, increasing your physical activity and changing your diet may have a positive effect on your overall risk and health.
If you fall under at least one of these risk factors and experience persistent symptoms, see your doctor immediately for testing.
Testing for and Diagnosing Colon Cancer
After sharing your symptoms and family history with your doctor, they will determine whether or not colon cancer is the cause. There are several tests and procedures doctors may use to diagnose this type of cancer.
A colonoscopy will be done to examine the inside of the colon. This allows doctors to find any suspicious areas that may require further testing with a biopsy. Blood tests may also be taken to find any indicators of your overall health related to kidney and liver function.
Doctors will then label your cancer with a stage. Staging is a bit complicated, but it’s based on the size and whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs. This tells you the extent of your cancer and helps doctors decide on a course of action for treatment.
Treatments for Colon Cancer
There are several things your healthcare team will consider before treating. They will look at the location of the tumor, the stage, your general health, and what your preferences are. A combination of methods may be used to minimize or completely get rid of the cancer.
The primary course of treatment for colorectal cancers is surgery. Doctors may be able to completely remove early-stage tumors. In more severe cases, a bowel resection may be necessary. This procedure removes part of the intestine and nearby lymph nodes. Other types of surgeries may include a:
- Lymph node dissection;
- Pelvic exenteration, or;
- Metastatic tumor removal.
Chemotherapy, chemoradiation, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy are other common methods to treat cancer. They may be combined with each other to reach a more successful outcome. For cancer that cannot be completely removed, patients can receive care to minimize symptoms and make life more comfortable.
Learn More About Colon Cancer Online
Cancer is a serious and often unpredictable disease. The good news is the five-year survival rate for patients with localized stage colon cancer is 90 percent. Recognizing the symptoms and getting an early diagnosis is crucial to increase the chances of colon cancer.
To learn more about colon cancer, start a search online and talk to your doctor.