Colon Cancer

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What is it?

Nowadays, colon cancer is more commonly referred to as colorectal cancer. This is because it has been discovered that colon cancer and rectal cancer are basically the same cancer. Uncontrolled cancerous cell growth begins in the bowel wall, works its way into the muscle and then passes through the bowel wall and spreads throughout the body.

Causes

Causes of colon or colorectal cancer include: genetics, diet, inactivity, smoking, drinking, gender, and old age. Less than a quarter of people who will get colon cancer will do so genetically.

Diet includes eating red meat and obesity. If one reduces the amount of red meat and fat they consume, their risk of getting colon cancer will lower. This is why colon cancer is found predominantly in first-world countries, as other countries don’t have the luxury of eating a lot of red meat or fatty foods. If one does not stay healthy with exercise, their risk of getting colon cancer will increase significantly. Smoking and drinking have many detrimental effects on an individual. Colon cancer is one of the worse ones. Colon cancer is found almost predominantly in males who are 50 years of age and older. WebMD states that a history of polyps and/or ulcerative colitis can also be factors involved in causing colon cancer.

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Symptoms

Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, is generally found in people who are 50 years of age or older. Depending on what stage it is at, in can have varying symptoms. However, common signs include: blood in stool, constipation, fever, weight loss, vomiting, nausea, and loss of appetite. In the worse case scenario the individual will suffer anemia and have rectal bleeding. WebMD says that a simple change in bowel habits can also be a sign of colon cancer.

Diagnosis

The major step in diagnosis is taking a sample of the tumor and performing a biopsy on it. This is usually done during a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. An imaging scan is then used to see to what extent the cancer has taken over the body. Common image scans include MRIs, PETs, and CT scans. Something called the TNM system is used to see how far along the cancer has gotten (i.e if it has gotten into the lymph nodes yet and, as well, to see if there are any metastases and, if there are, how many are there).

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Treatment

Prevention is the best way to fight colon cancer. Aspirin is a popular medicine used in the hopes to prevent colon cancer. It is generally recommended to those who are at higher risk of getting colon cancer (i.e. men over 50 and who are genetically at risk).

Screening is another important preventative measure in helping to fight colon cancer. Testing includes sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy and fecal occult blood testing. This latter test is suggested every 2 to 3 years. There is a new test that requires less fecal matter on the part of the individual. It is called the M2-PK test.

Your lifestyle can also determine your risk of getting colon cancer. If you eat properly, exercise, and avoid smoking and drinking you can greatly reduce your chances of getting colon cancer.

If you do manage to get colon cancer then your choices of treatment include chemotherapy, surgery and/or radiation. There are a few types of chemotherapy drugs that are used against colon cancer. They are: oxaliplatin, irinotecan, leucovorin, UFT, capecitabine and fluorouracil. The last two are used when the cancer has entered the lymph nodes.

Surgery is used to remove the tumor(s). Depending on the size of the tumor(s) depends on whether or not surgery is a good idea. You can only remove so much tissue before it is becomes detrimental to the individual. Chemotherapy helps to shrink the tumor(s) and makes the surgery more plausible and easier.

Radiation is not usually used for colon cancer, as the colon is quite sensitive to radiation. However, in some cases, it is used in combination with chemotherapy. But again, this treatment is generally used to battle other forms of cancer.