What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer also known as bowel cancer is a cancerous condition of the colon, rectum, appendix and anus. Colon cancer starts by affecting the inner layers of the bowel lining. If left undetected or untreated, this condition can deteriorate into tumours. Learn more about Colon cancer, Colon cancer symptoms and colon cancer treatment e  In colon cancer cancer (malignant) cells are present in colon tissue. The colon is part of the body’s digestive system  which has the task of absorbing nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and water) from food products, and store the waste until they are passed out. The digestive system consists of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large. The last 6 feet of intestine is called the colon or large intestine.Learn more about what is colon cancer here.
What is Colon Cancer
Detection of colon cancer
Detection of colon cancer is possible with the help of screening tests may be regularly performed for patients who are at an increased risk for cancer. These tests may be recommended for people with a family history of colon or rectum cancer, or have a history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the intestines).
Symptoms of colon cancer
The most common symptoms of colon cancer are:

  • irregular bowel movement
  • Constipation
  • Bright red or dark scarlet red blood in your stools or black, dark colored, “tarry” stools
  • Stools that are thinner than common (“pencil stools”) or feeling as if you cannot pour out your bowels completely
  • Abdominal (midsection) discomfort, bloating, frequent gas pains, or cramps
Sometimes, people may also see complications of stemming from colon cancer like bowel obstruction perforation, jaundice etc.
Diagnosis of Colon Cancer
In addition to the physical examination done by a doctor, the  doctor also look into the rectum and lower colon with a special instrument called a sigmoidoscope or proctosigmoidoscopy. This test, called orsigmoidoscopy proctoscopy, detects almost half of all cancers of the colon and rectum.. It is painless but still little pressure is felt. Doctor may also want to look into the rectum and colon (colonoscopy) using a special instrument called a colonoscope.
If abnormal tissue  is found, the doctor will cut a small piece of the tissue for further examination  under the microscope for cancer cells. This is called a biopsy. Biopsies are usually performed during proctoscopy or colonoscopy.
Different stages of Colon cancer
In addition to clinical examination, chest radiography, abdominal ultrasound, abdominal CT scan is recommended for staging of colon cancer. A small percentage of patients will also benefit from laparoscopic surgery. A blood test to measure amounts of carcinoembryonic antigen or (CEA) levels should be done to help monitor patients.
Four Stages of Colon Cancer
When colorectal cancer is found (diagnosed), more tests are conducted to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body).

  1. Phase I : The cancer has spread beyond the innermost layer of the colon to the second and third layers and involves the inside of the colon, but has not spread to the outer wall of the colon or outside the colon.
  2. Stage II : The cancer has spread outside the colon to nearby tissue, but did not enter the lymph nodes.
  3. Stage III : The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but has not spread to other parts of the body.
  4. Stage IV: This is most dangerous stage where cancer spreads throughout the body including liver.
Treatment for colon cancer
Treatment of colon cancer includes:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
Surgery is the most common treatment of all stages of cancer of the colon. Depending on the location the amount of tissue removal is decided on. If the tumour is very low in the rectum, stapling may be required for anastomosis. Sometimes, it may not be possible to preserve the anal sphincter then the doctor may need to create a permanent colostomy. This helps the patient to regain a normal life after the surgery. Radiation therapy is the use of X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours. The radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation) or by inserting a substance that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes (internal radiation) in the intestine. Radiation can be used alone or in addition to surgery or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals and drugs to kill malignant cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken orally, or may enter the body by inserting a needle into a vein. A patient may have chemotherapy through a tube that will stay in the vein while a small pump gives the patient constant treatment over a period of several weeks. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body and can kill cancer cells outside the colon.
Treatment of Colon Cancer
Treatment for colon cancer depend on what stage colon cancer has spread and general health of patient. Treatment is carefully planned primarily to relieve symptoms, If one sees any of the signs of colon cancer or fall in the risk categories of colon cancer one must seek immediate medical assistance and carry out regular checkups.
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