Colon Cancer: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Receiving a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, better known as colon cancer, is a real nightmare for most patients. After times of uncertainty, you finally know what it is, but for most diagnosed patients it is just the beginning – of more uncertainty. Following the diagnosis, you’ll get more and more tests, and if possible you’ve to start treatment immediately. More than 50,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer after fighting so hard to get better. That’s why it’s so important to get diagnosed at an early stage! The sooner colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the better your chances of surviving this terrible disease. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you are aware of the warning signs of lung cancer. After all, a painful abdomen isn’t always just a cramp.

Treatment cancer colon. Doctor pointing pen tumor intestines using an anatomical model. Consultation gastroenterologist for a patient over background

What is Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the colon (large intestine). This type of cancer often starts as small (noncancerous) polyps that form inside the intestine. After some time, these polyps can, due to abnormalities and changes in their call DNA, turn into cancer. Colorectal cancer is a term used for types of cancers that begin in the colon (colon cancer) and rectum (rectal cancer). Normally, cells grow, divide themselves, and then die. In patients with cancer, this process is run out of control, because it means the cells keep dividing instead of dying off. When this happens in the colon or rectum, colorectal cancer can develop.

Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer

After tons and tons of medical research, it’s known that there are several risk factors that increase the chance of getting colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, it’s still unknown how all these factors cause this type of cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Age, people older than 50+ have greater risk
  • Ethnicity, African-Americans have greater risk
  • History of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Genetics
  • Low-fiber and high-fat diets
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and/or obesity
  • Smoking
  • Consuming alcohol

Diagnosis & Colon Cancer Stages

When a diagnosis is made the oncologist will also tell you how far the colorectal cancer is progressed. He or she will do so by telling you what stage you are in. These (5) stages tell you how serious the cancer is, whether it has already spread to the lymph nodes – and organs – and how cancer will be treated. In stage 0 the cells are within the lining of the colon or rectum and aren’t cancerous. Getting the diagnosis of stage 1 colon cancer means that the cancerous cells have grown in the walls of the large intestine, but haven’t spread. Stage 2 means that cells have spread through the walls and possibly spread to the muscular walls of the intestine or even into adjacent tissue.

Medical vector illustration of colon cancer, an anatomical diagram showing cancer stages and spread to other organs.

Stage 3 is an advanced stage of cancer and the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes and other tissue and other organs in the abdomen. This stage is divided into three smaller substages to tell you how far it has spread. Stage 4, the most severe form of colorectal cancer means that cancer has spread to more distant organs, like the liver and lungs. This stage is also divided into 3 substages, to categorize the severity of the spread. In other words, how many distant organs and tissues has is spread, and is this treatable or just to relieve the symptoms and extend the life expectancy?

Warning Signs of Colorectal Cancer

Recognizing colon cancer can be very difficult in some cases because some forms do not present symptoms. Therefore, it is important to get tested for this regularly – especially if you fall under high-risk cases. Possible warning signs of colon cancer are:

  • (Constant)changes in bowel movements, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
  • Blood on or in stool
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Abdominal/pelvic pain or bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting

Colon Cancer Treatment Options

In case you suspect you’re suffering from intestine problems – or maybe even colorectal cancer – it’s important to visit your professional healthcare provider. Your provider will examine you, do some tests, and if he or she expects the same, refer you to a specialist. He or she will do some more tests, like a colonoscopy, biopsy, and blood tests, and eventually, come up with a diagnosis. When the diagnosis is indeed colorectal cancer there are – depending on which stage of colon cancer you’re in – several treatment options:

  • Surgery to remove the part of the colon that is affected by the cancerous cells
  • Chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells
  • Radiation to manage the disease
  • Immunotherapy boosts the patient’s immune system to attack the cancerous cells

There are so many ways to treat cancer these days, the above-mentioned are just a few examples. Sometimes they are combined, but it can also happen that these treatments do not help (anymore), so other options should be considered. That’s why it’s essential to do your own extensive online research and stay up to date about new treatments. Have you already been diagnosed with colon cancer, but aren’t satisfied with your treatment plan? It’s always a good idea to do a second opinion in another hospital or oncology center. Start your search today:

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