Cancer is a scary word. But when you know all the facts, knowledge and understanding can reduce the fear. Find out everything you need to know about cancer and its effects...

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer also referred to as bowel cancer or colorectal cancer is characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled cell development in the colon, rectum or vermiform appendix.  Colon cancer usually begins in the lining of the large intestine then develops into the muscles beneath it then carries on growing in the wall of the colon. In the United Kingdom, colon cancer is the third leading cancer in males and fourth leading cancer in females.

Causes of Colon Cancer

  • One of the main causes of colon cancer is a diet that is rich in fat.  Studies show that in countries where in the diet is high in fat, the incidence of colon cancer is also high.  Carcinogens are believed to be a result of the breakdown of fats from fatty food.

  • Colon polyps are also believed to be one major cause of the development of colon cancer.  It grows when there is an alteration in the chromosomes of the cells that are located in the inner lining of the large intestine.  When these cells are damaged, there will be masses of extra tissue in the colon which are initially benign but may develop as malignant over time.

  • Chronic ulcerative colitis can also be a cause for the development of colon cancer.  It is characterized by inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine.  However, this does not happen quickly as complications from ulcerative colitis only appear after about ten years.

  • History of colon cancer in the family may also increase the risks of developing the disease due to a genetic predisposition to it. Hereditary colon cancers account for about 5% of colon cancer cases, while about 20% of colon cancer cases are due to family history of the disease.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

There are a lot of symptoms that may indicate the presence of colon cancer such as weakness of the body, alterations in bowel movement, narrow stools, constipation, diarrhea, presence of blood in the stool, weight loss, pain in the abdominal area, cramps and bloatedness.

Diagnosis of Colon Cancer

There are two ways to diagnose the presence of colon cancer: barium enema x-ray or colonoscopy. The barium enema x-ray requires the use of lower GI series liquid that will help provide the outline of the large intestine when getting an x-ray image.  This will enable the doctors to identify tumours and other abnormalities.  The colonoscopy can help by examining the whole large intestine by inserting a long tube to view it.  Once a polyp is detected, it is removed using a colonoscope then examined for abnormal cells.

Treatment of Colon Cancer

Surgery is the most popular and most highly recommended treatment for colon cancer.  It is essential to remove the malignant tumour to prevent it from spreading to the other parts of the body.  However, prior to conducting surgery, it is important to assess the size and severity of the cancer itself.  If the cancer is just located in the large intestine, the survival of the patient is at 80%. However, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, then the success rate in curing colon cancer is just minimal.