Cancer – The name itself causes a shiver down the spine to most of us. In general, cancer is the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the body. One such type of cancer is Colon cancer. This cancer is caused by the large intestine and rectum. It mainly affects adults but can occur at any age.
What is Colon Cancer?
The waste from the human body is pushed outside through the large intestine, otherwise known as the colon. The end of this intestine which attaches to the anus is called the rectum. The human body replaces the cells of the colon lining at frequent intervals. During this time, there is a division of cells to form new ones. Sometimes, when there is an abnormal division or growth of cells in this area, they pile up to small lumps called polyps in the rectum. The growth of these polyps causes an imbalance in the cells and genetic mutations of the body, thus leading to colon cancer. These cancer cells slowly invade the adjacent healthy tissues, thus leading to further spread and damage.
Stages of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer can be detected in various stages based on the spread of cancer in the colon.
There are five stages of colon cancer which starts from its earliest stage to the advanced stage.
- Stage 0: This is the stage where the abnormal cells division has just started and is present in the innermost lining of the colon.
- Stage 1: In this stage, cancer has already penetrated through the linings of the colon and settled on the muscle layer.
- Stage 3: The cancer cells move over to the lymph nodes at this stage.
- Stage 4: The more advanced stage where cancer moves to the nearby organs of the body like the liver, lungs etc.
Causes of Colon Cancer
There is still a lot of research being done on colon cancer causes. Most of the reasons for this cancer are the changes in food and lifestyle. Let us look at a few factors that cause colon cancer.
- Older and aged people are prone to the disease.
- People who don’t do physical exercise can also be at risk of facing colon cancer.
- Foods like sugar, red meat, processed meat, when consumed in a large quantity, can cause colon cancer in humans.
- Colon cancer causes also include alcohol consumption and smoking.
- Obesity and people with insufficient physical activity can cause colon cancer.
- Sometimes it could be because of a genetic disorder also.
- People who already have bowel disease and type two diabetes might develop colon cancer.
- Lack of proper diet and nutrition.
- Untreated polyps can lead to colon cancer.
Symptoms and Signs of Colon Cancer
It is difficult for one to have any symptoms in the early stages. However, colon cancer symptoms can be detected or noticed once it advances.
- Frequent diarrhoea and constipation issues
- There will be rectal bleeding and blood in the stools, which is one of the main colon cancer symptoms.
- Abdomen pain and discomfort.
- Bloating of the abdomen.
- Sudden weight loss.
- Irregular and irritable bowels
- Experiencing fatigue and weakness.
- The person might have narrow stools.
- Colon cancer symptoms also include vomiting and energy loss most of the time.
Diagnosis of Colon Cancer
If you have been experiencing a lot of the above symptoms for quite some time, it is better to get yourself diagnosed. The doctor detects tumours through these techniques.
- Sigmoidoscopy – It is a method where a short flexible tube of the length of 60 cm to 2 feet attached with a camera is inserted in the mouth of the rectum to examine the colon.
- Colonoscopy – It is a procedure that is a more extended version of sigmoidoscopy where the doctor inserts a camera with the help of a thin, flexible tube that is 120 to 150 cm long inside the rectum to capture the inner walls of the colon. This camera will detect the presence or absence of polyps. The bowels are to be cleaned with strong laxatives before this procedure to get a clear picture.
- Double-contrast barium enema – This method is an advanced X-Ray procedure that uses a liquid named barium which takes more explicit images of the colon. A person undergoing this X-ray must not eat for several hours before the X-Ray. The polyps and tumours appear as dark outlines in the X-Ray.
- Virtual Colonoscopy – It is a CT Scan with low radiation that uses special software to give the visuals of the walls of the colon.
A biopsy follows all these methods, a process to remove tissue from the colon to detect colon cancer.
Treatment for Colon Cancer
Colon cancer treatments vary depending on their severance. Likely its outcomes and life expectancy also vary. A doctor or oncologist will keep in mind your age, health and endurance before deciding the type of treatment that could be opted. A few of the treatments for colon cancer are:
- Surgery – This is the most common treatment for colon cancer. The surgeon creates an opening in the abdomen wall and removes the part of the colon with cancer. The healthy portion is then reattached. There are different types of surgery like endoscopy, laparoscopy and palliative surgery.
- Chemotherapy – This is a process where medications are given to alter the DNA of the cells and target the cells that divide rapidly. This treatment is recommended when colon cancer starts spreading.
- Radiation therapy – In this process, the radiologist destroys the cancer cells using high energy gamma rays. It is done by internal radiation by implanting tiny radioactive materials in the colon. This method is used in the later stages where cancer has spread over to the lymph nodes.
How can you prevent Colon Cancer?
There are chances of preventing colon cancer by following the below preventive measures. However, the disease might appear in anyone with no limits and boundaries.
- Follow a diet with high fibre like vegetables, fruits, cereals and whole grains.
- Reduce the intake of processed meat and saturated fat.
- Avoid smoking and liquor consumption.
- Try following an active lifestyle.
- The use of aspirin can also lower the risk of bowel cancer.
- Decrease your stress.
Colon cancer can be mostly prevented if detected in the early stages. It is always better to trust your doctor and follow his or her instructions as to what could be done at the earliest possible with the best results.