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
- 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
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent flatulence, abdominal pain and bloating
- Weight loss
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.