Published in Storytime Tapesry and Gather.com
The second most prominent form of cancer in Canada today is colon cancer. The colon actually is the end of the large intestine leading to the anus.
In the United States one out of 17 individuals will get colon cancer. It is the third most prominent cancer in men, and white and African woman; jumping to second place among Hispanic and Native women. The risk for getting colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, increases with age. People in their 30’s onward are at risk and the risk doubles every ten years after that.
Like many cancers, colon cancer is not fully understood at this time. Mutant cells multiply to form cancerous tumors that have their own blood oxygen supply and can travel to other parts of the body.
Colon cancer can be hereditary and is linked to alcohol, tobacco, poor diet and exercise.
People who smoke or drink are four times as likely to get the disease
Individuals who maintain a diet full of red meat, fat, and protein also are in a higher risk category for this disease.
Victims of ulcerated colitis and crohn’s disease can contract colon cancer. Also, women with other cancers such as ovarian, breast and endometrial cancer are at risk.
Diabetes is another risk factor.
The disease seems prominent among the Askenazi Eastern European Jews.
The first sign of possible colon cancer are of course the polyps; it becomes increasingly serious if they begin to bleed. However when that happens the blood in the stools is not always noticed.
At first the bleeding will cause anemia and lead to iron deficiencies. It is important for people who already suffer from anemia and for postmenopausal women to see their doctor should these symptoms appear. People suffering from anemia may develop a pale skin color and experience fatigue.
When the malignant polyps are in the lower colon they can prevent normal bowel movement resulting in constipation.
The stools may change in constituency and become pencil thin. There may be cramping and discomfort.
The inner lining of the colon wall can become inflamed due to some tearing causing a condition known as peritonitis. This condition will also cause pain and discomfort.
Sufferers may also have a feeling that the bowel has not emptied even after elimination.
Sufferers may lose weight.
Unfortunately if the cancer should present itself in the upper colon there may not be any symptoms to indicate the onset of the disease.
How is colon cancer diagnosed?
The doctor will insert a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for polyps. The doctor may ask for a stools sample to check for blood and take a tissue biopsy when the growths are detected.
Other tests ordered could include:
A barium enema that will show any changes in the colon
A flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is a tube with a camera that goes in the anus is used to reveal any growths.
Colonoscopy is the procedure using a fiber optic tube (colonoscope) inserted in the rectum to check for bleeding, growths and cancer.
Like most cancers diagnosis depends upon staging. Staging marks the size, location and ability for the tumor to spread to other areas of the body and is vital in accessing the likelihood of successful treatment.
Stage I and II determines that the cancer is still within the wall of colon.
Stage III indicates the cancer is fast approaching the lymph nodes.
Stage IV indicates that the cancer has now spread to other parts of the body.
Treating colon cancer
In some case the polyps can be removed by an endoscope, an instrument that has cutting blades attached and this can be done without open surgery. However, surgery is still the traditional way of removing polyps. Surgery is done as the only means of treatment in the first two stages of the disease but is done along with radiation or chemotherapy in the more advanced stages.
New medications such as Celecoxib (Celebrex) are now being used in the United States to shrink the polyps in as little as six months. While anti-inflammatory over the counter drugs such as aspirin is prescribed for the pain.
Also estrogen replacement drugs are gaining success in reducing the risk for developing colon cancer.
Doctors screen people over the age of 50, similar to breast screening, to detect any early signs of the disease. One good thing is that early screening can catch the disease in the bud and eradicate it. Though there is always the possibility that it will come back.
Ways in which an individual can prevent colon cancer
Maintain a healthy lifestyle, stop smoking and drinking, maintain normal body weight, eat well while especially concentrating on fruits and vegetables, and exercise.
Studies show that a mineral called selenium, as well as aspirin, and a spice called turmeric seem to point to prevention but more studies are needed to confirm their effectiveness for preventing this disease.
Since this disease is hereditary, and nonpolyposis colorectal cancers are genetic, genetic screening is essential for the families bearing this gene. Families can be carriers of the gene as well.