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Colorectal or Colon Cancer

What is colorectal or colon cancer?  How can you deal with it?

Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum. Most colon cancers develop first as colorectal polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon that may later become cancerous. Polyps can be found by a regular screening and can be removed before they turn into cancer.

What causes colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer does not discriminate. However, individuals with a family or personal history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The risk of developing colorectal cancer rises after age 50. Patients with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or some genetic disorders are more likely to get colorectal or colon cancer. Prevalence is higher among black men and women, American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews).

Individuals with an unhealthy lifestyle are also more likely to get colorectal cancer. Some unhealthy lifestyle factors are: high-fat and low-fiber diet, alcohol use, tobacco use, lack of regular exercise, and not consuming enough fruits and vegetables.

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

Usually, during the early stages of colorectal cancer, individuals do not have symptoms, but they can have bright red or very dark blood in the stool, persistent stomach ache, abdominal pain or cramping, and weight loss for no apparent reason.

How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?

Over 90% of colorectal cancer cases can be prevented by regular screenings.

A colonoscopy is the most comprehensive type of screening test for colorectal cancer because it allows physicians to identify and remove precancerous polyps during the procedure.

Patients are given medicine to be sedated and feel no pain. During colonoscopy, the doctor closely looks at the inside of the entire colon (large intestine) and rectum through a thin, long and flexible tube (endoscope) that has a tiny video camera on the end that sends pictures to a TV screen.  Tiny tools can be inserted through the endoscope to remove polyps in a minimally invasive procedure.

Colorectal cancer can also be diagnosed through a colon x-ray, a CT scan or fecal occult blood test (FOBT) to detect blood in the stool.

What does treatment involve?

If colorectal polyps are found during a colonoscopy, they can be removed in the procedure.  Removed tissue samples are sent to be pathologically examined to determine if they are cancerous. In this case, the doctor will indicate whether a specific treatment is needed or not.

On the other hand, the doctor will determine if the colonoscopy should be repeated and its intervals depending on the number and size of removed polyps and their tissue.

Prevention

Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer as it allows the early detection of the disease. Other preventive tips are removing polyps and follow a low-fat and high-fiber diet. It is also recommended not to drink too much alcohol, not smoking and exercising regularly.