Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine. Most cases of colon cancer begin as small clumps of cells called polyps within the colon. These are usually benign in the beginning, however over time, some of these polyps may develop into colon cancer. These polyps are key to screening for colon cancer, but they may not show any symptoms. That is why it is recommended to screen for cancer regularly with colonoscopies. Certain tests may find polyps and help remove them before they develop into cancer.
Colon cancer may be dangerous because early stage colon cancer often shows no symptoms. When colon cancer symptoms begin to appear, they may include:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- A long-term change in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the consistency of the stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t completely empty
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Cancer occurs when a cell’s DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous. This leads to rapid division of cells, even when new cells aren’t need. This accumulation of cells is a tumor.
It’s not clear why the healthy cells in the colon develop this damage in the DNA.
These are risk factors that increase a person’s odds of developing colon cancer:
- Age — Colon cancer generally occurs in people over the age of 50.
- African–American race — This genetic heritage makes for higher risk.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions — Chronic inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease increases risk.
- Family history
- Low-fiber, high-fat diets — This is not a definite cause/effect, but some research points this way.
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Diabetes — People with insulin resistance have a higher risk
- Heavy alcohol use
- Radiation therapy for cancer — Radiation directed at the abdomen raises risk.
Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Lifetime risk for men is about 1 in 22 (4.49%), and about 1 in 24 for women (4.15%).
The methods of treatment for colon cancer depend upon the stage it is in. The three primary treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Early stage treatment
If your cancer is small, these are minimally invasive surgery options:
- Removing polyps during a colonoscopy
- Endoscopic mucosal resection — This procedure removes larger polyps and a small amount of the lining of the colon or rectum.
- Laparoscopic surgery — If a polyp cannot be removed during a colonoscopy, it may be removed using a laparoscope.
Invasive colon cancer treatment
If your cancer has grown into or through your colon, these may be surgery options:
- Partial colectomy — This removes the part of your colon that contains the cancer, along with healthy tissue on either side. The colon or rectum is then reconnected.
- Colostomy — When reconnecting the healthy portions of the colon or rectum is not possible, a passage is created through the abdominal wall from a portion of the remaining bowel for the elimination of stool into a bag that fits securely over the opening. This may be temporary or permanent.
Advanced colon cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
- Proton beam therapy
IvyGene Cancer Test
Individuals who confirm the presence of cancer in its early stages have a 79% 5-year survival rate, which is drastically higher than those who wait.
The IvyGene CORE Test can confirm the presence of colon cancer as early as stage 1. If you are interested in learning more about the IvyGene CORE test click the link below.