Anything can go wrong with the body and that includes colon – the organ considered to be the waste basket for body’s trash. The colon is a part of the digestive system that eliminates waste material through rectum and eventually though the anus. Unfortunately, just like the rest of the main organs, colon is susceptible to illnesses, not just the mild kind but to cancer as well. And this cancer can be hard to cure if it’s not detected early on.
It is known that colon cancer is the third leading cause of death in men in the United States and fourth in women. A high-fat diet in combination with a family history of colon cancer can increase the risk of getting it. On the flip side, colon cancer is less prevalent in regions where diet mostly contains vegetables, fruits and grains. Again, someone in the family that is a first-degree relative will increase your chance of getting colon cancer by three times.
The colon, also known as large intestine, is prone to developing tumors known as polyps. These polyps are usually benign and not life-threatening. However, any polyp that develops into a cancerous tumor shouldn’t be overlooked or neglected. So, what makes these polyps turn into a cancerous growth, and how does the polyp start on the intestine lining in the first place? The specific answer to this question is unknown although the high-fat diet accompanied with unhealthy lifestyle is mostly assumed to be the culprit.
Colon cancer can be present for many years without the person’s knowledge. Symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, weight loss, change in bowel habits, frequent constipation or diarrhea and so on may have been present all the time, but the person may have chalked it up to change in eating habits or certain foods. Since these symptoms may also occur in conditions such as peptic ulcer, IBS or Crohn’s disease, it is hard to distinguish between cancer and non-cancer by the look and feel alone. Many times, these symptoms may vary according to the location of the tumor. A cancerous tumor on the left will lead to thin stools, and if it is to the right, the symptoms may occur after a great delay – may be years or even decades.
The best thing a person experiencing the above symptoms can do is to get a complete colonoscopy or ultrasound from a specialized doctor, who has gone through all proper and necessary Credentialing Services, to detect the presence of polyps or tumors. Today’s techniques involve digital rectal exam as well as detection of blood in stools. There are also testing techniques that detect the presence of hereditary colon cancer syndromes. The diagnosis of all these test are made by a pathologist who will examine the cells of the polyp to determine whether they are cancerous or not.
The presence of cancer cells, if detected early, can help prevent its spread to other parts of the body such as lungs and liver. The treatment for colon cancer depends on its location. It also depends on the extent of the disease as well as the size of the tumor.