Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, or colon. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon, called the rectum. Together, these conditions are referred to as colorectal cancer.
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, or colon. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon, called the rectum. Together, these conditions are referred to as colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Generally it takes about 10-15 years for polyps to become cancerous. For this reason, colorectal screening can save lives. Screening is the process of looking for polyps or other signs of cancer in people without symptoms.
There are different types of polyps. Most noncancerous polyps are hyperplastic polyps. The polyps that can more often develop into cancer are known as adenomatous polyps. Although most polyps do not lead to cancer, if they are allowed to grow and are not removed, the danger they will become cancerous increases with time.
In cases where cancer does develop, the cancer cells can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. These cells can also break away and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body. New areas of cancer are formed and the cancer spreads through a process called metastasis. Once metastasis has occurred in colorectal cancer, a complete cure of the cancer is unlikely.
Unfortunately, many cases of colorectal cancer have no symptoms, especially in the early stages. Screening tests, such as colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, can detect polyps and changes that can be treated before symptoms develop. Early diagnosis of colorectal cancer is key to successful treatment. In most cases, screening should begin at age 50. Other factors or risks lead to recommended screenings at ages younger than 50. For instance, it is recommended that African Americans begin screening at age 45. If someone in your immediate family has had colorectal cancer, you should have your first screening at age 40. It is always important to discuss screening recommendations with your provider.
Symptoms of colon cancer often occur when the cancer is past the early stages and tend to vary according to the size and location of the cancer. For example, some people may experience abdominal pain, tenderness in the lower abdomen, blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation, or other changes in bowel habits. Other symptoms may include intestinal obstruction, narrow stools, anemia, or unexplained weight loss.
Symptoms of colon cancer are similar to symptoms of several other colon conditions, so it is important to notify your provider if you experience any of these symptoms.