Colon cancer is one deadly disease that is found on the rise in the recent years due to our unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits. This cancer attacks the digestive system including the small and large intestines. Colon Cancer affects more men than women and the risk increases with age. It is a growth in the colon usually arising from a polyp. The polyp generally looks like small florets of the cauliflower and sometimes looks flat. When it spreads it results in life- threatening issues.
What causes Colon Cancer?
There are no specific causes that could be pointed out as causes; however certain factors such as genetics, diet and health have been associated with high risks of colon cancer.
Two genetic syndromes, Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis have been associated with this disease.
Frequent consumption of red meat is found to increase the risk. Colon cancer is rare in Eastern countries where red meat is not consumed as the western counterparts.
Heavy consumption of alcohol and smoking is also found to trigger the cancer cells. Health factors such as diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle without sufficient exercise, inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis are found to increase the likelihood of developing colon cancer.
What are the symptoms to look for?
The presence of cancer cells in the colon or rectum can be indicated by the following symptoms:
• Blood in bowel movement.
• Loss of weight
• Stomach pain ranging from mild to intense.
• Constipation or Diarrhea. Disturbed bowel movements.
The worst thing about colon cancer is that the symptoms are not seen until the disease has gotten pretty advanced. Hence regular screening is advised for individuals aged 50-75. The African Americans who have an increased risk can begin screening as early as 45 years of age.
Screening for colon cancer:
The screening test includes a home stool test called FOBT- Fecal Occult Blood Testing; Flex Sig- a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy. These tests check stool samples for blood cells and must be done annually.
The Flex Sig and colonoscopy involves insertion of a thin tube into the colon through the rectum to check for polyps. The entire colon is examined. Enema is given to clear out the excreta before the procedure. Colonoscopy is generally done under anesthesia and the patient may feel groggy after the procedure and may need to stay off from work and will need a ride home.
More than 60% of colon cancer deaths have been prevented due to effective and timely screening exams.
An early stage of cancer is small and localized and requires less intervention. Surgery can be done to effectively remove small tumors and the residual cells can be killed through chemotherapy. Advance stages call for the removal of the infected colon and reattaching with the rectum. Alternative treatments and improved food habits can improve the condition of the patient.
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