During the month of March, awareness is raised about colon cancer since it is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. While it used to be diagnosed mainly in people over 50, today young adults of 20 and 30 years old are increasingly diagnosed with colon cancer. It is best to be aware of the symptoms associated with colon cancer and the eventual need for diagnosing and treating the disease in time. The chances of colorectal cancer are roughly 4% for both men and women.
Most cancers begin as small benign tumors that are a formation of many clumped cells. In time, these polyps on the wall of the colon may mutate into a malignant cancer formation. The following are risk factors associated with colon cancer:
- Inherited Genetic Predisposition:Gene mutations are usually hereditary. A history of familial colon cancer may increase the individual's risk of getting it.
- Diet:Diet is associated with colon cancer. The standard American diet of high fats and low fiber is a risk factor for this cancer
- Age: Most people that are diagnosed are over the age of 50. Younger people are less likely to be diagnosed.
- Inflammation: Chronic inflammation of the colon may result in colorectal cancer.
- Sedentary Lifestyle:Regular activity and exercise reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- Bad Habits:Bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking increases the risk of developing cancer.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Signs and symptoms to watch out for and visit the doctor are:
- Change in bowels (diarrhea, constipation, change in stool consistency)
- Bleeding from rectum or blood in stool
- Abdominal pain, cramps, or gas
- Feeling bowel full after bowel movement
- Weakness/ fatigue
- Weight loss
If the symptoms are ongoing, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get a colon screening.
The options for treating colon cancer depend on the stage of the cancer.
- Stage 0:The polypor tumor formation is surgically removed.
- Stage 1:If the polyp is removed completely, treatment is finished. If cancer has gone too far, more surgery might be required to remove the polyp.
- Stage 2:Cancer grows through the wall of the colon. Surgery is performed, but chemotherapyafter surgery may also be taken up if there are additional risk factors present.
- Stage 3:The part of the colon where the cancer is located is removed followed by chemo.
- Stage 4:If the metastasis into the other organs has not developed too far, surgery is performed on the colon and the whole formation is removed. If the metastasis is too much, chemo is performed before any surgery.
Prevention and Screening
The best prevention is to get regular screening with colonoscopy if you are over 50 years of age. Making lifestyle changes also reduces the risk of getting cancer. Consider taking the following steps:
- Eat lots of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. These foods contain many fiber and antioxidants which prevent the formations of polyps.
- Limit alcohol, and do not exceed a single drink per day.
- Quit smoking.
- Exercise regularly and for atleast 30 minutes each
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can increase the risk of cancer.
Be sure to read our article on how eating certain kinds of junk food can increase your likelihood of cancer.