What Is Colon Cancer?
Large intestine and rectum constitute colon. Primary function of colon is the removal of water from undigested material and convert it in to waste material that passes through rectum and finally out of the body through the anus. Cancer affecting colon is termed as colon cancer. Risk factors that increase the incidence of disease are age above 50 years, smoking, diseases that cause increased inflammation of colon, colorectal polyps, history of colorectal cancer family and genetic alterations. Diet poor in fiber results in formation of waste material that is hard to pass through rectum. Hence, a diet that is poor in fiber, calcium and folate for very long period results in colorectal cancer.
Colon Cancer Warning Signs/Symptoms
Any disease that affects the normal functionality of colon shows a primary symptom of diarrhea due to poor absorption of water or constipation due to increased water absorption. Other symptoms include blood in stools, weight loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting and discomfort due to frequent bloating. They may even have a feeling of incomplete bowl emptying.
Stage 0: Cancer is restricted to the innermost lining of colon.
Stage 1: Tumor proceeds towards the inner wall.
Stage 2: Cancer cells are found throughout the wall and even extend outwards towards the surrounding tissue. Lymph nodes are not affected at this stage.
Stage 3: Lymph nodes near to the affected region are invaded by cancer cells.
Stage 4: Cancer cells make their identification throughout the body i.e. they spread to other organs like kidneys and lungs.
Initial test that is performed is the blood test to assess the concentration of carcinoembryonic antigen. High levels of antigen are seen in colorectal cancer patients.
Next step that your doctor does is to check the entire region of colon with a small instrument termed as colonoscope and the test is termed as colonoscopy.
Endorectal ultrasound is another diagnostic tool where pictures of colon are taken by inserting an ultrasound probe in to the rectum.
Chest x-rays and CT-scan are carried out to identify other affected regions if the colorectal cancer has advanced to stage 4.
To have effective results it is essential for the patient to have full knowledge of the treatment method, precautions to be taken and should co-operate well with doctor. Treatment method employed depends on the stage of the disease. Local therapy aims at treating the affected region while systemic treatment shows effect on entire body. A combination of methods will be used in advanced stages to have effective results.
Surgery: This involves removal of the tumor either through colonoscopy usually used to diagnose the disease. In advanced stages a part of colon is removed followed by connecting the healthy parts. If the normal path cannot be formed a new path for waste elimination will be arranged by your doctor.
Chemotherapy and biological therapy are systemic approaches to treat cancer. They involve the use of drugs and antibodies that bind to the cancer cells. These methods are either used as standalone measures or as supportive measures in patients who have undergone surgery.