The colon is part of the large intestine, which is the final part of the digestive tract. Its length can vary from 150 to 220 cm. Its main function is to reabsorb fluids and process waste products from the body and prepare for its elimination. Cancer of the colon, or medically called colorectal cancer, is one of the most common malignant diseases. In fact, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in men and fourth in women in the U.S. This article looks into the most common causes of colon cancer, its early symptoms, the treatment methods, and the diet recommended for this disease.
What causes colon cancer
Colorectal cancer stands for tumors inside the colon which typically develop from polyps. Polyps in the colon should certainly be removed in order to prevent their future development into colon cancer when cells begin to divide, thus forming a tumor. The surrounding tissue may also be affected, and cancer cells can detach from the primary tumor and create metastases in other parts of the body. The worst case is when colon cancer spreads to the liver.
There are a number of risk factors including genetic predisposition, family history, Crohn’s disease and frequent colon inflammations.
Other risk factors include unhealthy lifestyle, especially physical inactivity, being overweight, as well as smoking and drinking excessively. People with diabetes have nearly 40% higher risk of colon cancer than those who don’t have it. Also, women who have beat ovarian, uterine or breast cancer are more exposed to this type of cancer, as well as those who have already had colorectal cancer – there is a high possibility for the cancer to return, especially if it first appeared before the age of 60.
The early symptoms of colon cancer
Unfortunately, colon cancer does not normally give any symptoms in its first stages. In fact, it may take several years before they appear, which is why people over 50 are strongly recommended to have regular screening for colon cancer.
When symptoms start to appear, which normally happens in the later stages of the disease, they differ depending on the location of the tumor. These include frequent diarrhea, chronic constipation, blood in the stool, anemia, pencil-thin stool, severe stomach cramps. These symptoms are often accompanied by drastic weight loss, vomiting, loss of appetite or feeling of constant fatigue and exhaustion.
The most serious issue is the fact that patients usually ask medical attention when the disease has already advanced, which seriously lowers the chances of successful treatment. Colon cancer can occur in any part of the colon – it can appear in the rectum, especially in men, in the middle section of the colon, typically in women, and at the junction with the small intestine. Although people older than 50 are most susceptible to this type of cancer, it has rising incidence among younger population too.
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