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Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (also known as colon), which is the lower part of the digestive system. If the cancer appears in the last 8-10 inches of the colon it is then usually referred as colorectal cancer.

Causes and Risk Factors of Colon Cancer

The causes of colon cancer are unknown but some risk factors have been identified such as the following:

- Appearance of polyps
- Age
- Diet
- Family history

The majority of colon cancer cases start with small, benign polyps. With time, some of these polyps can become cancerous. Not all polyps become cancerous, but nearly all colon cancers start as polyps.

Polyps can be small and in some cases may not show any symptoms. When symptoms appear they usually are blood in stool, gas, changes in bowel movements, abdominal pain, etc.

Colon cancer is more frequent in older people, over the age of 50. Diets high in fat, protein, calories, alcohol, and meat and low in calcium, folic acid, and fiber increase the risk of colon cancer.

The chances of suffering from colon cancer increase if parents and siblings have had it too.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

When colon cancer starts to develop there may be a lack of symptoms. As it grows, the following common signs may appear:

- Change if bowel movements
- Constipation
- Diarrhea
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent flatulence, abdominal pain and bloating
- Weight loss
- Vomiting

When suffering from these symptoms it is important to check with a doctor, in order to get a correct diagnosis. When colon cancer is detected in its early stages, it is up to 90% curable.

Fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) are becoming a popular tool to detect colon cancer symptoms. This test is capable of detecting even the smallest amounts of blood in the stool that may be invisible to the human eye. This type of test can be done in the comfort of home and does not require handling of the stool.

Other tests are usually performed at the doctor's office such as a sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy where the colon is examined.

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