The second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, colon or rectal cancer is cancer of the large intestine, the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon.
Colon cancer is one of the most treatable and beatable cancers. Because of advanced technology and screening methods, it’s also one of the most detectable cancers. Colon cancer may be prevented with proper colon screenings.
In both colon and rectal cancers, most cases begin as small, benign polyps that over time develop into colon cancers.
- Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
- Blood in the stool
- Narrow stools
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Feeling like the bowel isn’t completely emptying
However, the number one symptom of colon cancer is NO SYMPTOM AT ALL. Most polyps grow slowly and may go undetected for several years before producing any symptoms of disease.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Your risk for colon or rectal increases if you:
- are older than age 50
- are African American
- have a family history of colorectal cancer
- suffer other inflammatory intestinal conditions
- detect symptoms of colon cancer
With proper, regular colon screenings, colon cancer is one of the most treatable and beatable cancers. Because of advanced technology and screening methods, it’s also one of the most detected cancers.
The exact cause of polyps is unknown, but healthy eating and exercise may reduce your risk of colon polyps; however, for some, colon polyps are hereditary and unavoidable. To identify polyps, your gastroenterologists may perform a colonoscopy to examine the large intestine.
WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY?
During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a long, slender, flexible tube attached to a video camera to examine the colon and rectum while the patient is comfortably sedated. If any polyps or suspicious areas are found, your doctor will pass surgical tools through the tube to remove and biopsy the area.
The patient is under anesthesia and will not be aware of the surroundings during a colonoscopy, nor experience any pain if a polyp is removed.
Your treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. The course of treatment depends on the stage of your colon cancer.