Related Media: Lower GI Endoscopy
Clara Higgins, DO, a surgeon with
Wellmont Medical Associates, discusses the symptoms of colon cancer, as well as what to expect with a colonoscopy. Learn more below.
Colon cancer is the growth of cancer in the large intestine.
The large intestine, or colon, absorbs water and nutrients from foods. After that, the colon passes the solid waste to the rectum for storage, before it is eliminated from the body.
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Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor.
The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
It isn't clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Being over 50 years old increases your chance of colon cancer.
Other factors that might increase your chance of colon cancer include:
In most cases, there are no symptoms with colon cancer.
However, when symptoms do appear, they can include:
You'll be asked about your symptoms and medical history and be given a physical exam.
Your doctor will check the rectum for lumps or abnormal areas, as well as recommend different tests in order to identify tumors and confirm the diagnosis.
Tests used to identify potential colon cancers include:
Additional tests that might be used to confirm the presence of colon cancer, determine what stage the cancer is in, and/or determine if the cancer has spread include:
The physical exam, combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the type and stage of cancer you have.
Staging is used to guide your treatment plan.
Like other cancers, colon cancer is staged from I to IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment for colon cancer depends on how early it is detected and the stage or location of the tumor.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following options:
Surgery is the main treatment for colon cancer. There are several options for surgery depending on the location of the cancer and how much it has spread:
Some surgeries may require temporary or permanent
A colostomy is a surgical opening through the wall of the abdomen into the colon. This is used as a path for waste material to leave the body.
After a colostomy, you will wear a special bag to collect bodily waste.
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
It is directed at the site of the tumor from a source outside the body. This therapy is aimed at the immediate area of the cancer.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pills, injections and catheters.
The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body, killing mostly cancer cells. They can also kill some healthy cells.
This therapy is systemic, meaning it affects your entire body.
Targeted therapy uses medications to target and kill cancer cells, while sparing healthy tissue. They are currently used to treat advanced cancers. Targeted therapy is less harmful to healthy tissue, which reduces side effects. It may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy.
Some medications can be used as part of a treatment plan. Other medications may help to either prevent or reduce side effects of treatments, or to manage certain side effects once they occur.
These options include:
Tell your doctor when you notice a new symptom, and ask if any of these medications are appropriate for you.
The causes of most cancers are not known. However, it is possible to prevent many colon and
rectal cancers by finding and removing polyps that could become cancerous.
Beginning at age 50, both men and women with average risk should follow one of the following screening options:
People with any of the following risk factors should begin colon and rectal cancer screening earlier and/or undergo screening more often:
Be sure to discuss colon cancer screening with your doctor to see how and when you should be screened.
There are lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk of colon cancer, such as:
American Cancer Society –
National Cancer Institute –
Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003096-pdf.pdf. Updated January 31, 2014. Accessed September 12, 2014.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Colorectal cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114074/Colorectal-cancer-screening. Updated March 29, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
General information about colon cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq. Updated July 7, 2014. Accessed September 12, 2014.
Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: Cancer J Clin. 2012;62(1):30-67.
Rex DK, Johnson DA, Anderson JC, et al. American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for colorectal cancer screening 2009. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104(3):739-750.
11/19/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer: Kirkegaard H, Johnsen NF, Christensen J, Frederiksen K, Overvad K, Tjønneland A. Association of adherence to lifestyle recommendations and risk of colorectal cancer: a prospective Danish cohort study. BMJ. 2010;341:c5504.
12/9/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer: Aune D, Chan DS, Lau R, et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2011;343:d6617.
4/8/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer: Yee J, Kim DH, et al. Colorectal cancer screening. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/ColorectalCancerScreening.pdf. Updated 2013.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012-2015 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.
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