As the name implies, colon cancer is the abnormal growth of cancerous cells in the large intestine (colon). And cancer that affect rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine) is called rectal cancer. Both are often referred to as bowel (colorectal) cancer. Like most things in cancer, there are several stages of how it starts out and progresses!
The earlier the diagnosis of the cancer is made, the better prognosis for the cancer to treat. In other words, the stage of the disease can play a key role to determine the treatment plan and affect the outlook of the disease after treatment.
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When it is diagnosed at early stage, it is more likely to respond the treatment as well and therefore easier to treat. So, catching the existing of the cancer is one of the most challenging things.
Unfortunately, many times it doesn’t cause any symptom at early stage. If the symptoms do occur, these can be vogue. But this can vary from sufferer to sufferer. Some patients with early stage of colon cancer may have some warning symptoms, these may include:
- Fatigue without known cause, this may be followed with similar symptoms such as tiredness and lack of energy. These may be followed with decreased appetite and changes in weight (typically unexplained weight loss).
- Changes in the habit of bowel movement. These may include an emergency urge for bowel movement that occurs more frequently or a discomfort feeling of not being able to empty bowel totally. These may come with rectal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, or even rectal bleeding!
- Changes in the stool. These include blood (dark patches) on /in the stool, and change in the shape of the stool (such as pencil, long stools).
- Pain, typically it occur so intense in the pelvic.
- You may also experience bloating and other abdominal discomforts.
Since the disease often doesn’t cause any early symptom, and if your doctors do believe that you have it, some tests are required to help catch and diagnose the existence of the disease.
The following are some of these tests!
Your doctor may start the diagnosis by asking some unusual symptoms that you are experiencing. So if there are any symptoms that you do believe may have a link to the function of your bowel, tell to your doctor!
One of common procedures in physical examination is with the use of a scope, colonoscopy (a flexible, long and slender tube with a small camera). This special tool can help your doctor to clearly examine the inside of the colon.
If there is any suspicious abnormal growth, your doctor can take a sample tissue from this area for further analysis. The procedure of taking this sample tissue is medically called biopsy.
Using an imaging test
CT scan test is usually the common imaging test used in diagnosing bowel cancer. In this test, your doctor needs multiple CT images of your colon. It is recommended, particularly if the use of colonoscopy is not your option or if you cannot take colonoscopy.
Healthy cells are continuously growing and dividing in order to keep the body functioning normally. Cancerous growth in the colon occurs when healthy cells are altered and become out of control to grow!
The cancerous cells can continuously divide even when new cells are not required! As a result, these abnormal cells can invade and cause damage to the normal cells & tissue nearby.
Unfortunately, what causes these abnormal cancerous growth are not known in most cases of colorectal cancer. So far, experts only know that the cancer occurs when healthy cells in the bowel become altered!
In other words, the exact cause of the disease is not fully understood yet. However, some risk factors have been identified. Your risk may increase if you have some of the following risk factors:
- Age (the older you are – the greater risk you have). In fact, the disease is relatively more common at the age of 60 or older.
- A family history of colon cancer or other similar conditions such as colon polyps, colorectal cancer, and bowel polyps.
- Health conditions that affect intestines may have contribution, too. These include Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis).
- Other conditions that may also increase the risk include diabetes, familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome.
- Some lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise (sedentary individual), diet low in fiber and high in fat, abusing alcohol, and cigarette smoking.
- Radiation treatment. The use of radiation that directly point to the gastric and intestines to treat previous cancerous cells may have an effect in increasing the risk of colon cancer.
- And interestingly, African-American race is more often affected.